Birmingham City (A) | Schumacher's Preview
Argyle manager Steven Schumacher knows a football club in good order when he sees one.
In fact, he sees one every day. The feelgood factor is firmly in place at Home Park, with sold-out crowds and the buzz from the return to Sky Bet Championship football still resonating around PL2.
Saturday’s away game at Birmingham City sees Argyle heading to a club who could boast the same good feeling in their camp at the moment. Blues have started the season well, getting seven points from a possible nine, and advancing in the Carabao Cup, all while conceding just one goal.
The club was subject to a takeover by an American investment group, including NFL legend Tom Brady, in the summer, and manager John Eustace seems to have recruited astutely, bringing in players such as Siriki Dembele, Ethan Laird and Tyler Roberts, while Dion Sanderson and Krystian Bielik, who performed well on last season, have signed permanently.
“Birmingham City are obviously in a good place at the moment,” said Schumacher.
“They've had a brilliant start to the season. They've got a lot of positivity going on with the takeover that's happened and new investors that have come in. Their fans are getting right behind it, it’s sold out this weekend. It’s going to be a really hard game.
“Not only are the team playing extremely well, they've recruited brilliantly over the summer.
“I'm not surprised [at their start] because when you see the squad that they were recruiting. Everyone that they signed I was thinking: ‘that's a good signing’ - Ethan Laird's a brilliant player, Dembele, they got Bielik on a permanent, Dion Sanderson - you see those players going through the door, you think they might have a chance.
“It was tough financially for them last year where they were at. The new investors have come in and sorted that out by the looks of things. They've been able to go and spend big money on really good, top-quality players. I'm not surprised that since the season's kicked off their performances have been brilliant.
“We know [Birmingham first-team coach] Keith Downing really well. I know Keith is brilliant out of possession. They're a really well organised, well drilled team. I know John Eustace as well, the manager, who plays brilliant football, has got a really good philosophy.
"They're good on both sides of the ball at the moment. They're compact and then they've got a plan when they get it. They might have a couple of injuries out, but if they're all available then they've got threats. When an organised team have got threats on the counter attack and threats when they're a big physical team as well, then we have to be at it.”
During last season’s League One title-winning campaign, Argyle lost seven games. In the seven games that immediately followed each defeat, the Greens drew one and won six.
That stubborn refusal to lose back-to-back league games – something Argyle have not done since February 2022 – was a key reason for promotion last season, and the resilience to achieve that is something Schumacher and the squad will now need to call on at St Andrew’s, following a 2-1 defeat last Saturday, against Southampton.
“We analysed the game, we went over it with the players on Monday and spoke about it,” said Schumacher, regarding the loss to the Saints. “There were loads of positives, but there's things that we felt that we could do better in certain instances. With the ball and without the ball, we could have done things slightly differently.
“We speak about it, get on the same page and then try and put it right on Saturday. If that means we don't lose the game on Saturday: brilliant. It'd be fantastic to get a point, but if we can go there and win, even better.”