Congestion charge woes
In London, if you drive through certain busy areas, you can be penalised for causing traffic and, as a deterrent, you are made to pay a fee for doing so. However, come to Small Heath in Birmingham and you are actually rewarded for causing a congestion. Unfortunately for drivers, this is not on the roads, but on the football pitch at Birmingham City Football Club.
Yet again this weekend, Blues struggled to overcome a team who came to St. Andrew's and set-up with a five-man midfield.
Cardiff were the latest in a long line of opponents this season to trouble Hughton's men by congesting the midfield and restricting the Blues' midfield time on the ball, which would allow them to dictate the play.
While Malky Mackay's suggestion they "dominated" possession may have been a bit exaggerated (The BBC match report has the Welsh club's share of the ball at 52%), it was clear for all at St. Andrew's to see that Cardiff kept the ball much better than Blues - especially in the first half.
Despite their time on the ball, it can be argued that Cardiff rarely troubled Boaz Myhill and scored from their only attack. But the draw was seen as a wholly acceptable result for Mackay and Cardiff, especially in the race for a play-off spot away to a rival.
However, the Bluebirds are not the only visitors to the second city to pack the midfield and look to stifle Blues' attacking play. The first domestic side to set-up with a 4-5-1 formation was Barnsley. Keith Hill's men became the first league side to take points away from Birmingham when the home side had to rely on a late Chris Burke goal to rescue a point. This was no fluke though; the Tykes had 51% of the possession and had 11 shots, including one beautiful strike from the impressive Jacob Butterfield that gave them the lead. Prior to Barnsley's visit, Blues had brushed aside Coventry (1-0) and Millwall (3-0), both of whom arrived playing 4-4-2.
In fact, Blues have only dropped four points at home against teams playing the conventional system. Brighton and Southampton have held Blues to stalemates, yet Leicester, Leeds, Burnley, Doncaster, Watford, Ipswich and Portsmouth have all been defeated at the concession of just three goals.
But, Peterborough, West Ham, Hull and Derby have all also avoided defeat at St. Andrew's with five men in midfield. Nottingham Forest ruled the midfield and counter-attack well enough to inflict our first league defeat at home.
It is not a definite way to beat Hughton's charges though, Blackpool and Middlesbrough tried to employ similar tactics ('Boro even attempted to play a 3-4-3-cum-3-5-2 system), and both have been defeated. The Blackpool result was relatively comfortable, but cast your mind back to the opening exchanges against Tony Mowbray's men and we could have been 3-1 down early on, before going on to win 3-0.
Sunday's result meant that against teams with an over-flowing midfield, Blues have dropped 15 points at home. The concession of those points has ultimately cost us a shot at automatic promotion, but with three games remaining at home, a nine-point return could be the key to us securing a play-off spot.
Nevertheless, considering our external commitments elsewhere this season, that would represent a fantastic campaign for us.