Jonathan Leko has largely failed to hit the ground running at Birmingham City since making the move from Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion, a fact that cannot be down to just the player himself.
Since arriving at St Andrew’s, Leko has been largely deployed in wide areas by Aitor Karanka, thus restricting the 21-year-old’s influence on the game.
There is no doubting that the former Charlton Athletic loanee possesses the ability to play in said wide role, but it is his time at the Addicks that provides the short answer to why he has yet to thrive for the Blues.
He is better playing as a striker through the centre. the statistics of his short stay at the Valley back this up, with the forward having netted all five of his goals for the London club whilst playing centrally under Lee Bowyer.
However it must be noted that Leko is being used as a back up to the mercurial Jérémie Bela in wide areas, perhaps suggesting that Karanka does not believe he has a better alternative for crucial Frenchman – maybe suggesting that his hand could be forced in the upcoming January window.
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If this is to be the case, Karanka would be silly to not look any further than making a move for Arsenal’s Emile Smith Rowe, with the youngster offering a solution to not one but two problems for the Spaniard at Birmingham.
The youngster’s preference of playing on the left of an attacking midfield three would in turn free up Leko for one/two of the striking berths up top for the Blues as a more pacy alternative for the likes of Lukas Jutkiewicz and Scott Hogan, with both players having yet to hit any real form in front of goal this term.
Smith Rowe is in desperate need of a regular game time after being used sparingly by the Gunners this term and would be well suited to Karanka’s style of play alongside Birmingham’s most recent addition in the shape of Alen Halilovic.
Killing two birds with one stone doesn’t happen much in football but when such an opportunity arises, Karanka would be silly to turn down the chance to bring in a player who could not only improve the team as a whole but also Leko as an individual.