Often Partisan

Signing Options

There was a lot of excitement yesterday online about the possibility of Blues re-signing Italian playmaker Diego Fabbrini. The 25-year-old is currently on loan at Middlesbrough but despite having played in 13 of their opening 18 league fixtures he’s started just once since November 25 with Stewart Downing preferred in the “number 10” position.

Aitor Karanka has played down suggestions that Fabbrini is on his way in the Evening Gazette in Middlesbrough, saying

“Diego is my player and I can’t think about next week. He is on loan for the season.”

While all this has gone on, there has been one thought that I’ve seen recurring on social media that I can’t help but agree with – do Blues really need to spend £1.5million on an attacking midfielder when one would think defence might be more of a priority?

Blues have conceded 28 goals this season in the league – the seventh lowest total – which from the outside would indicate that the defence is pretty good. That being said however, stats only tell a part of the story. Blues have a chronic lack of cover in defence; Neal Eardley is out for the remainder of the season and Mitch Hancox appears to be massively out of favour leaving Blues with Paul Caddis, Michael Morrison, Jonathan Spector, Paul Robinson, Shane Lowry and Jonathan Grounds to cover four positions.

Robbo has played well of late but he does seem to be very bipolar in performances, either being brilliant or awful. At 37 he really, really shouldn’t have a long-term future as a mainstay in the team even if he is a captain, leader and legend as some of the polemics on Twitter will tell you.

Of the rest, Shane Lowry has played just twice; Jonathan Spector has had chronic injury issues in the past and Jonathan Grounds seems to divide opinion of Blues fans as to whether he should be in the team or not.

If, as Gary Rowett says, he is building for the future – and I believe him when he says that – surely Blues would be better served lumping out what cash they have on a defender to bolster what is a weak area of the team for depth and continuity. I’m not saying we shouldn’t buy Fabbrini – but I am concerned that there are very few rumours linking Blues to someone who can provide some much-needed competition for defensive positions.

I wholeheartedly agree with Rowett when he talks about not bringing in bodies for the sake of it, and that new additions should be better or a different option to what we have. However, I also think the autumn proved that injuries can massively disrupt a small squad and Blues are thin at the back; another centre-back to provide competition for places is only going to help in my opinion.

I have no doubt that Blues are looking at defenders as well as everything else – I guess I’m just anxious that deals get tied up as quickly as possible before the mad scramble on deadline day – and so that players brought in have as much effect as possible on the season. It’s just another case of wait and see.

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93 Responses to “Signing Options”

  • wanchaimassiv says:

    You will be one of the first to moan when we can’t score and open up teams at St Andrews as has been the case this season. If Fab is true he would be a brilliant addition as Toral isn’t ours and I bet we couldn’t afford him any how. Robbo has been brilliant this season Spector has stayed fit and dsone a great job when he has played. The defence isn’t the problem

    • Fange says:

      No it isn’t at the moment, when all are fit. What OP is stating is cover.

    • almajir says:

      I take your point but I think it’s myopic.

      It’s like saying we have no problems up front because Donaldson is so good – then when Donaldson got injured we looked boned until we got Vaughan in. Blues have six players to cover four positions; including one who is 37, one who has a previous injury history that’s pretty poor and one who has played twice. It won’t hurt us to bring in at least one more defender – a left sided centre back I think would be best.

      I’d rather that than having to either play a central midfielder like Kieftenbeld or having to blood a very raw youngster like Mbende in a crunch game should the worst happen…

  • ChrisG says:

    I think we definately need a decent left back as i’ve never been convinced with Grounds performances in that position & this could then free up Grounds to move into a CB role which could better suit him, he could then provide cover for left back if needed as Spector can for either RB or CB.
    As far as using 1.5 mill to sign Fabbrini, i’d be interested to know whether that is the whole budget or if there’s money left to bring in a defender. I do think as well there may be 1 or 2 departures yet as well

    • Blue Steve says:

      Completely agree. Left back is the area that needs strengthening as demonstrated in the list below. The players below can comfortably cover the positions stated. I’m not sure how comfortable I would be with Hancox being first reserve at LB. All the rest I am OK with.

      Right Back


      Left Back


      Centre Back


  • Big Al says:

    To be fair to Rowett he did outline his transfer plans a few weeks ago and stated he needed to sign a defender. He must have irons in the fire. I personally would love to see Fabrini as a permanent player. Let us not forget this is the guy who beat us on his own whilst playing for Millwall.

  • Richard carroll says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more Daniel, a centre half is desperately needed. Robbo has to be in his final season for us and as much I like Spector as a player…… He isn’t nor ever will be a commanding centre half. People on here whine about creativity and scoring goals but let’s be honest, successful teams not only score goals, they also don’t give many away…… After all, what’s the point in being able to score 3 goals a game if the team then concedes 4? If we want to make any kind of serious statement of intent then that has to come from ensuring that the team is built correctly which as much emphasis on defence as there is in attack.

  • duch says:

    a good defender is like gold dust at the moment so isn’t it best to defend as a team and have good attackers than can exploit a counter attack!?

    seems to be what Rowett is doing IMO, and if anyone has seen that Mbende play you will have to to think Rowett is prepping him.

    Very similar to Yobo, Balde type defender, not quick just very intimidating and strong!!

    I personally would love to see him in the back four at some point but at 19 he may not be quite ready!!

  • Retired&Weary says:

    I agree with wanchaimassiv, we have needed a Fabbrini type player for home games especially. Toral has had a couple of decent games recently, but doesn’t open teams up by running at them from midfield. A Fabrinni would create space for others, get us dangerous free kicks & score a few himself. Something completely different.

  • StaffsBlue says:

    I wouldn’t be that excited by Fabbrini signing tbh. He’s a skillful player yes, but with little end product. We’ve just got rid of one of those. We already have Toral and Shinnie for the No.10 role and Will Buckley can play there too. I think £1.5m could be better spent in the summer.

    I would prioritise a left back personally. As it is, we have 4 players for the centre back spots (Lowry being better suited to the centre of defence), but only 1 at left back.

    • Bluepenguin76 says:

      Staffs I would have to agree with you there !! I’d say the priority is a Left back (no disrespect to Grounds) and another forward. I think we have a degree of variety in “the hole” at the moment,so I would like to see the funds going elsewhere!

      If we can get a man into help Clayts burden upfront, I would think we have a real chance of making the top six spots.

      • StaffsBlue says:

        An attacking left back would be ideal. Most of our attacks come down our right-hand side. When the opposition play high up on Caddis, it nullifies most of the threat. We need the same attacking prowess down the left… at least at home when we struggle to break teams down.

    • Shirley Blue says:

      Staffs – look at the results we got after he came on loan for the last couple of months last season – he improved us significantly. You are correct he didn’t score but he pulled defenders all over the place. He is a dream partner for someone like Donaldson who can then exploit the space.

      • StaffsBlue says:

        As I said, I’m not averse to Fabbrini coming in, as long as we get a left back in too. Although, at this moment in time, I wouldn’t put him in front of Toral.

  • Andy says:

    I think we could do with someone who can play both positions, we dont need two defenders in my opinion, someone who is a good solid centre half and can equally slip into the left back spot, Who i dont know? Fabbrini would be an excellent signing if we can do it, there have been games where we have struggled to unlock defences and he would definately help us when we face this problem… fingers crossed we can get him in

  • Dave Mann says:

    I would rather spend the £1.5 million NOW and not the summer when we have a chance of the playoffs !!, weather that’s Fabbrini or a leftback, rightback whatever but let’s have no regrets please . KRO

    • ChrisG says:

      Agreed Dave, i’m all for going for the play offs especially as we’re in touching distance again. The thing is with this window is that there are only a select few that know exactly how much we have to spend

  • Eric says:

    Would love us to sign fabrini loved him,but fully agree defensive cover is a more urgent matter

  • duch says:

    cannot see this Fabrini thing been real, but who knows, Buckley can play number 10 so that’s three bodies in that position.

    I would like to see some defensive cover, my worry is always if Morrison got injured we would be up the creek!

  • paule says:

    I agree we need defensive cover & hopefully Rowett has that in hand, over recent months I’ve read on this website that we need a plan B now he is looking at a different kind of quality in Fabbrini that just might help out in his so called plan B concerns about defensive cover seem to have arisen!! I think Rowett has done very little wrong to date & believe if finances are there he will strengthen the squad throughout kro.

  • wanchaimassiv says:

    BTW very harsh on Robinson there. Bipolar is a bit strong. He has been 95 per cent of the time excellent. Too many don’t want to recognise when other players make mistakes or have bad games Robbo is a scapegoat. Surely Rowett knows he needs another defender he actually said so so why all the histrionics?

  • IvoryTowers says:

    Oh come on Daniel! It’s almost as if you got got a kick out of all the negative replies that your last comment piece elicited. Do you seriously think that the Gary (after clearly stating he was after a defender) is still not looking for one and that even if they did sign Fab it would be at the expense of a defender? As you are so far of using sayings here’s one for you ..’If you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all’. Or if you do want to express your opinion about team matters at least make sure you are going to games so you have the modicum of an informed opinion.

  • Craig says:

    Best form of defence? Attack!

    In Rowett we trust.

  • In emergency we could always play 3+4+3 with grounds playing centreback , but whatever we play it is obvious that we are three players short , a striker , a playmaker, and a fullback , but in saying that we still could do with a strong centreback , there is a but coming on , , we ain’t sure whether we have the backing , but we do need a first eleven player NOW ,not for the sake of if but because the team is not perfect and we need at least one if not four , but beside all that we are full of it and are not going to take second best , ps some derby fans are calling for Clements head after we beat them , how dare they , some fans just do not recognise their betters , Birmingham city fc …..KRO

  • alan watton says:

    I saw hancox at Crawley at Christmas and he played well on the left wing

  • gazza says:

    at the end of the day , or should i say road… the upcoming game against ipswich is an imperative one imo. you could argue that all the games are but at this stage of the season if we are to continue that surge and push then this game will show our mettle. as i have stated previously “time waits for no man” and us old school want to be alive to see the sleeping giant back to where we belong. starting with a victory at home to the tractor boys. K.R.O

  • Dave Mann says:

    Ipswich and Sheffield w at home and Bristol city away are massive games coming up and will give us a great reflection on what’s possible this season , can’t wait to see all three, come on you blue boys . KRO

  • .KC says:

    If Fab is available and wants to come ,sign him. Players of his quality being available for us are rare and he adds a different dimension. But agree we could do with a decent defender.

  • Hillfield Blues says:

    If available signing Fab is a no brainier for me.
    I also expect a quality defender to be signed as well.Nobody has said our whole budget is 1.5 mill have they? Either one of Kyle Bartley or Dan Burn would do for me

    • chris says:

      pretty much is all our budget if you include wages and money going into the club, maybe to repay some of the TTA loans then i guess that leaves a million of which fees and wages will have to be paid, so enough for loan wages or wages and small transfer fees.

  • StaffsBlue says:

    I’m not against Fabbrini coming in, but I think defence is the priority at the moment. We have enough players who can play in the hole, but we only have one left back in the squad… unless you want Robbo as cover… being the only other natural left back.)

  • Lcon1390 says:

    I really appreciate the op blog and the friendly debates we have as fans in hear, I do come on everyday to read about my beloved club. I love in Walsall and im telling you know rico Henry who we have been linked with will not be coming to us as he will stay at Walsall for the rest of season, probabily as a loan after being sold to a prem club. Tom Bradshaw is a player we should be pulling out all the stops to sign he’s young scores goals and is a poucher. Im not a robbo fan but what he lacks in talent he makes up with heart and determination funnily enough Abit like a certain Damien johnson. I feel playing grounds and Morrison at cb would be our best bet bring in a left back and we will finish in the top 6. I just get annoyed daniel that you take every criticism to heart, at the end of the day football is all about opinion and you should embrace that. Kro

  • Steve says:

    Been rumoured this morning north of the border that Andrew Shinnie is on the way to Rotherham on loan. That would suggest if true that the deal for Fab or at least another attacking midfielder could be in the pipeline. If we have £1.5m to spend on one player (which i doubt in truth) then I’d like to see us get a youngster or two with that money but one’s who can make an immediate impact for us. Rico Henry from walsall would be a sound investment would allow Ground maybe to be used as CB cover. If Rowett seriously doesn’t rate Hancox he could be used as part of the deal to get Henry a little cheaper?

    In my mind I’d still like a LB, CB and Forward if we can. Get Brock out on loan where he can learn the english game a bit more and play regularly in either league 1/2 and preferably at someone who plays the same style of play as us.

    Ideally and trying to be every slightly realistic, I’d like us to get:
    Bartley (loan)
    Iwobi (Loan)

  • Richard Granfield says:

    Report that Andrew Shinnie has gone on loan to Rotherham. If true Gary must have secured a replacement.
    Gary was continuously on the phone watching the youth team last night so a deal could be done!

  • chris says:

    Why should GR buy anyone in January when the loan window opens in February.
    Fabrinni is probably just paper talkand why waste £2 million on him (including wages) he’s far out of our realm just on wages alone, more fans who live in cloud cuckoo land.
    GR will buy / loan what he needs when he needs it and i doubt Fabrinni is what he needs.

  • Dave Mann says:

    Shinnie will do well at Rotherham I think and good luck to him , now that means there’s someone imminent coming in , I wonder who that may be ??? KRO

  • Lee says:

    Our defence isn’t a problem, spending money on a decent attacking player can only be a good thing, if we can afford another defender that would be nice but not necessary

    • Shirley Blue says:

      Completely agree. The defence has been pretty good except for the Sheffield Wednesday game. The single biggest problem we have had this season, which is the main reason we have dropped points, is scoring goals at home causing us to lose games we shouldn’t be against inferior teams. Fabbrini is exactly the type of player who could change that because he can do things that nobody expects. Anybody remember that game he played against us I think for Millwall and he completely ran the game from midfield and we lost. He is the sort of player that makes people want to turn up and watch games. I really hope it happens – a massive step forward for us,
      Also, again, why the unnecessary fuss – there is over a week to go. No reason we cant have Fabbrini and a defender assuming there is someone available who is better than what we have got.

      • Hillfield Blues says:

        Spot on.Anybody that went to home games against Wolves,Rotherham,Charlton and Huddersfield would clearly see where we need strengthening.
        I’m struggling to understand why some people think that money should be spent on the defence as opposed to a player like Fabrini who could give us a bit of midfield creativity especially at home.
        It’s not as if our defence is even that bad as it’s the 7th best in the division statistically.

        • Dave Mann says:

          That’s correct Hillfield which means our defence matches our league position which is good so what’s the problem? KRO

          • Hillfield Blues says:

            Exactly.The emphasis needs to be put on scoring goals.Anything like half a decent home record and who knows where we’d be in the league now.

  • Dan Hickman says:

    Unless we have a chance of permanently signing in the summer, don’t bother with loans, waste of time now imo. As for Fabbrini, if we can get him as well as a forward thinking left back then go for it. I think we need a LB whose natural game is to be on the front foot andown overlap, it would give us more balance and another outlet, especially at home. I think GR has the team thinking intelligently enough on the pitch for the midfield to sit and cover if one of the full backs pushes on. If we could get Fabbrini in and swap Shinnie for his brother we would be okay. Although if JT goes back to Arsenal we will need Shinnie in the future

  • The Flying Pig says:

    I think defence is the priority and both a LB and LCH are required, but I accept we probably can’t afford to buy both. Caddis worries me defensively too, but I think he’s the least of the problems.

    Assuming we can only afford one, if we go for a LB, then that leaves Robbo and Specs for CH and unless the LB is good in the air, that will weaken our ability to defend crosses/high balls. However, JG doesn’t give us anything going forward, so that might improve.

    In our position, it’s about compromise and taking the best option available when, perhaps, neither is perfect. Rowett has done pretty well for us on transfers so I’m confident he’ll make the right call.

  • Dave Mann says:

    Koby Arthur back in training again.. Could he be that supprise package that gives us that bit of X factor going in to this crucial part of the season? … My best player during pre season so who knows! KRO

  • Walter says:

    Robinson has been excellent this season. As has Spector. Fact. I go home and away.

  • Andrew says:

    Centre back is a must! I dont know how long its been since we brought anyone decent at the back.

  • Steve in Yorkshire says:

    I agree with many posts here stating that the priority has to be left back. I like Grounds, at times, he offers a lot at set pieces both ends, but can be limited confronted with a tricky winger and his distribution is largely poor. I must say I think he has been much better over the last few games, but he is the only realistic option! All other positions have at least 2 valid options.

    Centre half is a luxury we currently can’t afford. We have four to cover this position plus Grounds who could cover. I would also argue that the nature of their game makes centre haves slightly less prone to fatigue injuries. Spector has a good injury record this season. Robinson has genuinely been superb this season. I can’t think of many centre halves who would come to Blues and be better. I am quite certain that Rowett has long term plans to bring a centre half in or why would he have gone for Kiernan. They do have to be better though, or no point signing them. So better than Spector and Robbo, as good as Morrison… Not so easy is it!

  • StaffsBlue says:

    I wonder if the Shinnie story is correct? Rotherham have just signed Chris Burke on loan for the season.

  • Dave Mann says:

    Again that’s good for Rotherham . KRO

  • Jonathan says:

    Maybe GR is going for it,there have been games when a bit better quality would have won us the game,maybe he is thinking along those lines, yes if we get an injury defence is thin on the ground, but you have to be bold to get to the Premier League,where untold riches await,seems to me GR is gonna go for it,with a more attacking lineup,the final push to the promised land,these next few months could be quite exciting times down St Andrew’s

    • StaffsBlue says:

      The only part of our game that has possibly let us down this season, is the amount of goals we’ve scored. That sounds strange when we’ve hammered Fulham 5-2 and just wiped the floor with Derby, but we’ve only scored more than 2 goals in a game 3 times so far this season.

      Teams are invariably coming to St Andrews and parking the bus, which we struggle to break down. For me, if you can’t get over ’em and you can’t go through ’em… then go around them and smash the back doors in. :) That’s why I’m looking forward to having Maghoma on one wing and Buckley on the other.

      • Shirley Blue says:

        You are right in stating what the problem is and that’s exactly what Fabbrini brings – the unexpected.

        • StaffsBlue says:

          Scoring goals has been a problem all season… and yes, any help in that department would be welcome. If that’s Fabbrini, then all well and good.

          As for the defence, no, the defence isn’t a problem as such, but we do need back up (at least) especially at left back. You have Caddis/Spector at right back, Morrison/Spector right CB, Robinson/Lowry left CB… but just Grounds at left back. Common sense tells you we need one more defender. If one or two of them go down with injury/suspension after the loan window has closed, we could be in the brown stuff.

          • Shirley Blue says:

            Ashley Cole is available!!! Back to being serious Lowry can play left back so could Robbo at a push.

          • StaffsBlue says:

            Yes, he can cover there, but he was criticised for his one game at left back. His 45 minutes at centre back against Bournemouth was competant enough.. and he’s done ok in the U21s there too.

  • Stan Moye says:

    Daniel, as l’m currently out in Thailand, your blog is such a lifeline. Personally l’d prefer to defend by being attack minded, plus give the opposition something to worry about. Plus changing your defence with 50% new staff is a bit risky if this proves to be the case. Having a number of personnel who can impact on our attacking options has to be the way forward. I think the Fab deal may be determined by Boro’s success in signing Phillips and or McCormack. No doubt the next few games are vital for us, but so too for Ipswich and Wednesday, but with GR and his team signing a new deal everything is positive. So come on you Blues, l will be awake in the early hours again! willing our team on.

  • The bid to get Fabbrini . in ,was a farce last time and I can’t see it being anything else this time , this farting about about for players one at a time is soul destroying , getting the right players is in is important , and so is getting promotion , COMEON let’s get this show rolling ,

    • StaffsBlue says:

      Apart from the obvious financial difficulties with the deal.. there’s also the little problem of Watford calling him back and Middlesborough agreeing to that. If they don’t, the deal is dead in the water. If they do, it’s still going to take time, so I wouldn’t expect the deal much before the end of the window… if at all.

  • Texas Pete says:

    If Shinnie is confirmed is out on loan does that mean another forward is set up and certain to sign? If Fabrinni is not in Sheff squad tomorrow that may be an indicator. Or who else could it be? El Khayati? Or do we have enough for now with Toral?
    Who ever it is they have to score goals on the break. Cant wait to know!

  • Dan Hickman says:

    Trouble is at the moment, with the wrong combination of injuries/suspensions, our back 4 would looh a little suspect. Going 3-4-3 as suggested earlier wouldn’t work either as our defensive shape is very successful and based around our current formation. Grant Hanley would sit nicely alongside Morrison I reckon, only 25th I think, but not sure on cost or wages though

    • StaffsBlue says:

      Big bruiser. Always plays well against us though.

      • Dan Hickman says:

        I think a big CH who can mix it with physical strikers and some channelled aggression is what we need to lead by example and set the tone. Strikers up against Robbo and Morrison will probably think they won’t get much space but fancy themselves toe to toe.

  • Toby says:

    Well it seems a good left back and a player for the future exists at walsall in Rico Henry. I liked fabric but would be alot happier if we signed Henry.

  • Pere says:

    Would like to see Rico Henry as key signing. Get Toral to sign for us. Arsenal cannot be that keen on signing him if letting his contract run down. Look at the potential of these 2. Also that gives perfect scope to become able to play 3-5-2 with wing backs I. Henry and caddis who are suited to attacking play and 3 centre halves including grounds on the left. This would suit us so well. Febrini has no end product and toral brings goals to the side.

  • Dave Mann says:

    Feeling a bit nervous this morning due to this being our biggest game of the season so far for sure….win and there’s every chance we will be top six if Sheffield W lose at Reading and with Burnley and Derby playing Monday we could be within three points of third so it’s massive today .. Let’s get it on today and go for the jugular though with Ipswich away record being even better than ours and us winning our last three home league games this could be an absolute cracker .. Nervous , you bet I am! KRO

    • Dan Hickman says:

      Dace, your positive outlook has served us so well this season, don’t change it now! Agree that today is a huge game for us if we are to get into the playoffs this season, then sooner or later we will have to cement a place in the top 6, which in itself brings a different kind of pressure. Will be interesting to see how the players cope

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