Birmingham City have endured another challenging campaign in the Championship so far with Aitor Karanka not having been able to improve their form as much as he would have been hoping to.
It was always going to be a difficult task for the Spaniard taking over at St Andrews and trying to get a side who had failed to win any of their last 14 matches of last season. Birmingham have in the main been more difficult to beat. However, there has been a real lack of inventiveness and quality in the final third that has seen them score just 17 goals in their opening 23 Championship matches.
Given their lack of creativity that has been on display at St Andrews so far this campaign, barring the odd moment of quality from the likes of Jérémie Bela and Ivan Sanchez, it is surprising that Karanka has effectively frozen Dan Crowley out of his starting line-up. The 23-year-old has been handed just three Championship appearances and has regularly even been left out of the matchday squad.
Crowley was a player who established a good relationship with Birmingham supporters last season in his first year at St Andrews, and whilst he sometimes lacked end product he would always try and be positive in possession and provide an attacking spark. The attacking midfielder registered five assists in 38 league games last term (Transfermarkt).
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That meant that Crowley produced the third most amount of assists in Birmingham’s squad last season, behind Bela and Maxime Colin (Transfermarkt). Karanka could therefore have been making a major mistake by keeping him out of the side, even though he admitted it has largely been down to changing the formation and not to do with the 23-year-old’s attitude.
The attacking midfielder is unlikely to want to spend the rest of the season out of the side at St Andrews and could therefore be tempted to try and find a route out of Birmingham in January. It is being reported that Crowley is already unsurprisingly attracting the interest of other clubs and is thought to be surplus to requirements at St Andrews.
Given the swift turn around in managers, there has been at Birmingham in the last few years, it could be a mistake to cash in on Crowley this window just because he is currently out of favour. Karanka should be given more time to build what he is aiming to do with the Blues, but history suggests that time might not be afforded to him.
Were he to leave in the next six months to a year then another manager might well feel Crowley is an important asset to the squad. Therefore, even if not for his usage during the rest of the campaign, Birmingham should avoid sleepwalking into selling the 23-year-old and then regretting it a few months down the line.