It's been a while since my last post, and much has changed. Blues have signed Robert Tesche and Ryan Shotton, which both appear to be improvements on the first team squad. Tesche especially I am a huge fan of, a powerful midfielder who creates chances and gets into great scoring positions quite consistently - or at least did in his last spell here.
The Shotton signing is a sensible one too. He's young, athletic, tall and versatile, so signing him for a small fee is a good deal. He improves the first team and covers a few positions, adds some height to the backline and is generally a good economic deal. If he has a few good years he will be worth a lot more than that price and if he has a few okay years, it's been a worthwhile deal.
Many of the players I outlined in the previous post have moved - Frederic Gounongbe moved to Cardiff, Falk Jensen to Copenhagen, Santos to Alaves and Van Weert to Groningen. I still think Denis Oliynyk is worth a look but he doesn't appear to be on Rowett's radar.
There appears to be something in rumours surrounding Kieran Richardson, James Wilson and Nelson Oliveira, so I'd like to look at them as well as some players who are now out of contract who Blues should definitely look at, if nothing else.
First off, let's look up top. Clayton Donaldson is great, but is aging and surely will struggle to keep up his incredible running and power over another 46 games. Nelson Oliveira looks like a great option if we could get him in, a player who scored 0.35 times per 90 (not including penalties) compared to Donaldson's 0.24, which constitutes around 3-4 more goals a season. He also took a lot of shots, which is always a good sign. 3.97 times per 90 minutes is a lot, though a big proportion appear to be from outside the area. However, he appears to win a lot less in the air despite being a similar size and despite creating more chances, gets less assists. This could be coincidence - people weren't finishing the chances he was creating - or it could indicate that the chances he was creating weren't particularly high quality. I would have needed to watch a lot more of him to find this out. Given his age and the fact he is a full international, I am certainly happy we are going after him and think it would be a good move despite my concerns.
James Wilson is a completely different if interesting prospect. He's lightning quick, making him a completely different forward to what we have, but is also surprisingly good in the air, at least with how much he wins. Last year, he scored at exactly the same rate as Oliveira but is younger and quicker. He creates less, but that may come with age, but the reason I would prefer Oliveira is that I think it's more likely we could sign him permanently. Wilson is liked at Manchester United and has plenty of admirers elsewhere, so I'd be surprised if we could sign him permanently.
I really struggled to find good out of contract options to play up top - I liked the look of Emre Gural but apparently, so did Galatasaray. I think Rowett may have found some great options - goalscorers are rare and expensive so finding these guys on loan is a good move - you can't find them on frees, generally.
I've outlined the fact that I think we need a goalscoring left winger if we are to improve, and thankfully, there seems to be more decent aged left wingers with good scoring records without a club. I've whittled it down to two who I think might be interested and could improve the squad.
Anis Ben-Hatira is potentially a very interesting choice. A left footed left winger, something that Blues don't currently have, who appears to like a shot and seems to score a few goals at a very decent level. My main concern would be that he hasn't played over 1000 minutes for a few seasons, but has impressed in the minutes he's had in terms of goals and shots, if not chance creation. He's a full Tunisian international and would be an interesting signing, but I would have concerns. He has scored goals when he's played and for that alone, he is possibly worth a look on trial as he is out of contract.
Alexander Gorgon is a player who is exciting. He bagged 19 goals from the right wing last year, which even boosted by penalties is still very good. He's reportedly out of contract, and I think it would be silly to not at least have a real look at the guy. He plays in Austria so there are issues with knowing how good the quality is and how well he will adjust, but it's so difficult to ignore a player with such a good record from out wide.
Let's move to the third and final problem position, left back. Kieran Richardson is a 'no, thanks' for me. Given that he was a winger, the fact that he creates less chances than Jonathan Grounds is a bit worrying from full back. The idea behind getting a new left back is either a straight improvement on Grounds (which I don't think he is) or an attacking alternative (which he isn't either).
Using stats to find full backs is nigh-on impossible with the publicly available stats, so I only really used chance creation and assists for some measure of attacking ability. It's not perfect by any means, but it's a start.
Sebastian Boenisch is a fun player. He's taller than Grounds, so Rowett will like that, but appears to offer more attacking threat. He tends to get a few assists and takes a weirdly large amount of shots, which could indicate aerial threat in the opposition box. He's a Polish international and last played for Bayer Leverkusen so it's very unlikely he'll move to Blues, but he fits the bill and much would depend on wages and his willingness to drop to the Championship.
Nicolai Boilesen would maybe be my pick. 6'1, Danish international, 24 years old and having played at the top level of Dutch football a lot should be quite experienced. He has recorded more assists than Grounds and has a higher pedigree, so may be an upgrade. However, I think Jonathan Grounds is actually pretty good and I'm not sure it's going to be easy to find an improvement.
A few other options are Derick Tshimanga and Emilio Izaguirre who would be available, but I have very little idea how good they are. Tshimanga has played for Belgium but they are famously short of full backs, and Izaguirre was rated highly by Celtic though we have no idea how well that translates to English football.
In conclusion; I like the Tesche signing a lot and the Shotton signing makes sense even if it isn't exciting. Oliveira or Wilson would be good signings and both are better goalscorers if possibly worse creators than Donaldson, but having more options is always good. We still need a left winger and I think we should look abroad - Gorgon is exciting and surely worth a look. Jonathan Grounds is good but there are options out there to add to the position.
I will be keeping an eye on all players I have picked out to see what happens to them and whether it was ever realistic for Blues to sign them, and whether they were actually good, so look out for that. Feel free to follow the blog on twitter at @BCFC_RYB or me personally at @ElliottBCFC.