The Key Positions New Boss Aitor Karanka Needs To Strengthen

Aitor Karanka has made a good start strengthening the squad. The additions of George Friend in the back four, the re-signing of Jon Toral with Ivan Sanchez, and Jonathan Leko all improve our attacking options with of course the addition of much needed pace. Finally to date so far, Andres Prieto arriving, gives us a replacement between the posts. I’m really pleased with these signings. More of this below.

However I’m certain that the manager will be keen to strengthen his squad further, as he looks to push Blues away from any more Championship relegation worries this season. The Spaniard having succeeded Pep Clotet at St Andrew’s, will be looking into the transfer market with the new campaign already on the horizon to add to the squad further.

The new season kicks off on September 12 so time is at a premium if Karanka is going to welcome new arrivals and give them time to settle in before the big kick-off. The current odds offered by the best UK betting sites like 888sport are at around 5/1 for Blues to be relegated, which looks encouraging enough.

Here I will take a brief look at the main positions that the former Middlesbrough and Forest boss must look at to get his tenure off to a good start.

Defense

Of course the one area we struggled with last season, and to be honest the previous, was in defense.
We were conceding around three goals a game at home after lockdown, and that is disastrous and clearly made it virtually impossible to win games. Actually, we failed to find any sort of cohesion at the back and it was like the back four who performed reasonably well prior to lockdown, had only just been introduced. The addition of George Friend will help that, but I still think we need another centre back and another full back, even if it’s only for cover.

Maxime Colin

Harlee Dean and Marc Roberts struggled in that post lockdown period, and Jake Clarke-Salter has returned to the parent club, Chelsea. I have to say, although Dean and Colin struggled post lockdown – they were playing well beforehand. Players don’t become bad over night, and I’m convinced that these two will be key players going forward under Karanka. I know Dean has had some stick on social media and forums, but I like him and I’m hopeful that he will do the business.

One choice is a free agent such as former Middlesbrough defender Daniel Ayala, who has left the Riverside. We may struggle to sign him, but he is a good example of the sort of player we could, and probably should, go after. Ayala was signed from Norwich by Karanka and spent six years at the club and made more than 200 appearances, so there is a connection there and I think would be a very good addition.

The Goalkeeper

The goalkeeping department is also an issue. The contract handed out to David Stockdale by Harry Redknapp has finally run its course, Lee Camp has moved on, and youngster Connal Truman has been loaned out to AFC Wimbledon. Although Prieto has arrived, I’m certain he has been signed as the 2nd choice because of his age and experience. Having said that, apparently he played well in the friendlies that he has appeared in. However my point it, we need to find a senior stopper before the big kick-off.

He is apparently keen on Charlton’s Dillon Phillips after the keeper caught the eye with some of his showings last season. Blues have also been linked with Cardiff’s Neil Etheridge and Newcastle’s Karl Darlow, although I think the possibility of signing latter, is now dead in the water. Either way, a steadying influence between the posts would certainly go a long way to improving those frailties at the back.

Up Front

As mentioned, finding another striker is the other area Karanka is going to have to sort out. Clearly the loss of Jude and his pace and creativity was a priority. The signings listed above go a long way to addressing that, although in my opinion, not quite far enough yet.

The Profit From Che and Jude’s Transfers Will be Critical to Build a New Squad

We need at LEAST another striker / centre forward, probably two. There are rumours that Juke may be sold – although I haven’t seen anything substantive to back that up, regardless we need another front man. If Juke DOES go, then we need three. I’d like to see Karanka bring in an experienced forward a bit like Kevin Phillips was, along with a younger guy. The latter would probably have to be a loanee from a PL side.

Scott Hogan wasn’t signed after his loan spell from rivals Aston Villa last season, Alvaro Gimenez didn’t work out and has now gone to Cadiz, and Lukas Jutkiewicz has an injury. Which leaves us with very few options up front. Bela will have to be more than just an impact sub, and if he is used properly, I think could be excellent for us.

Signing forward Jonathan Leko from Albion, is an excellent bit of business. The talented 21-year-old can play from either flack or up front and hands Karanka more options. Leko spent last season on-loan at Charlton, hitting five goals in 21 appearances.

We should be looking for someone like Joe Lolley. The former Kidderminster Harriers and Huddersfield attacker has done brilliantly for Forest and of course played under Karanka.  I doubt Lolley is available, but as a former Birmingham academy graduate, he might be tempted to join us if he is! Either way, that’s the sort of player we need. Pace and creativity have been our biggest issues up front. As I have mentioned, the additions so far help with that – but further strengthening is needed.

Whatever happens the first team will have changed significantly and it will probably take a few weeks to bed in. However I am feeling far more positive about things than I have done for some while, and will be even more so with the three or four more additions discussed above.

Discuss this post, and other items, in the Joys and Sorrows Forum.

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7 Comments on The Key Positions New Boss Aitor Karanka Needs To Strengthen

  1. For me we have majorly missed the boat on ivan toney, I would have sold juke for an over inflated price(say 5 mill) bought toney and paid the adds on over time. He is young hungry and lethal in front of goal. but we offered silly low fees which is blues all over. For me we need 2 good new strikers with juke avaialable as back up why you may say with his record last season. well he doesnt fit in with karankas style and I believe he will start to decline over the next year or 2. if we are going to progress and improve we need to better what we had. dean for me would be out the door as I feel roberts will always improve and gives us the aerial steel we need at this level, davis would be gone and so would pederson. Give seddon a chance and prove his worth because he will not sit on the bench for very long. As for a keeper etherington from cardiff is my choice. Its all about opinions but some of it is common sense. stop conceding and find a 20+ goalscorer. lets get the basics right first.

  2. we have struggled for goals for years now , it doesn’t matter what system we use as long as we have the ability , if we have a defensive system the we had better buy players up front who have pace on the break , good goal scoring ability , good passing ability and a couple good in the air ,.for me we have been real good defensively in friendlies but no shots on target showed a relegation threat again , because the biggest threat to lack of confidence is when the strike force isn’t scoring and the defence gets to realise that they are working hard for nothing , we need another keeper , 2 strikers , and a frank lqmpard or Steven Gérard in midfield ..

  3. if we are going back to a defensive system again we need to get it right ,we have proved that we can cope defensively in the friendlies , but no goals and not a shot on target against Tottenham said what the fans all know , we are not good enough strike wise ,,which showed itself up again last season at times when we had over 20 attempts and only only one or two shots on target I do like karaoke as a manager and rate him but this talk of waiting till we get the right players ,which smacks of if they are cheap we will buy them which means we need a miracle with all other clubs after the same thing ,

  4. let’s face it, once again the owners and board have appointed another loser as manager.
    Karanka was always a wrong choice and his transfer strategy is already falling apart recruiting mainly short term oldies or underweight kids (as in this ex-Reading keeper) he really has no idea. League 1 here we come.

  5. The fact that we are dealing in freebies and on the cheap is alarming me … Not quite wetting bed yet… Don’t see what Toral will bring ? Wasn’t that good when he left and hardly done anything since… Dean and Davies need moving on at some point and Karanka needs some readies to improve quality, swapping like for like is pointless. Can’t see where goals are coming from as we all know that without Juke this year Weem be buggered… But he won’t keep doing it forever and he’s not a lone striker… Still let’s give Karanka a chance

  6. Leko is the only signing that could be classed as decent. Total, Clayton and Friend are journeyman squad players and the Spanish players will be back in Spain by January just like Villaba and Giminez

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