Aitor Karanka has suggested that the effort of some of the players during Birmingham City’s 1-0 defeat at home to Luton Town on Saturday was a concern for him as the Blues fell to their latest setback.
The Blues headed into the game under real pressure having failed to win any of their previous ten matches in the Championship at St Andrew’s and having fallen into the bottom three after the 3-2 loss at Bournemouth. Birmingham were unable to issue a strong enough response and they failed to create sufficient opportunities in the final third to get back into the game after falling behind.
The defeat means Birmingham have now won just one of their last 12 league matches, and despite Karanka having been offered the full backing of Xuandong Ren in the week the pressure will be mounting on the Spaniard. The Sun journalist Alan Nixon even suggested he could be in trouble after the latest defeat against Luton.
Speaking to the media following the defeat to Luton, Karanka confessed that the effort levels of some of his players were a real concern during the game. While the Spaniard also stated that he is hopeful that the players remain behind him despite this latest setback.
He said: “The effort concerns me because we knew Luton were good at long balls and second balls and when they won every second ball it means that they had more effort than us.
“When we showed the players the set-pieces and throw-ins, from one throw-in they scored the goal every single corner they headed the ball.
“So that is why I talk about the effort.
“I think so because when one team wants to win, wants to win every second ball, and wants to win every header, they (Luton) did it and we didn’t.
“That’s because they wanted it more than us.
“It’s concerning because if we had lost today and the players were nervous or under pressure, I could understand it.
“But I have to analyse it to see what happened.”
“I hope (they are still playing for me). After the last game, Scott Hogan said something like it’s about them (players) so I don’t think in one week everything has changed.”
These are very worrying times for the Blues and this latest message for Karanka suggests that the time for the Spaniard at St Andrew’s may be coming to an end. It is one thing to lack quality, but as he said the lack of effort at times will be a major concern as that is what is required more than anything else in a relegation battle.
The Blues have plenty of experience in their squad, but those players are not stepping up at the moment and there is not enough leadership coming from the pitch. There will be question marks over why they allowed a player with the type of battling qualities they lack in Maikel Kieftenbeld leave the club in January when that is what they need now.
Karanka needs to get more out of his players than was on show against Luton, and if that does not improve soon then a decision will have to be made over his future. Birmingham’s hierarchy might be wanting to stand by him but their hands may well be forced in the coming weeks if things can not get better on the field.