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Talking Tactics: Rooney must maintain results while changing style
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Dan Fitch
Wayne Rooney has returned to England with Birmingham
Wayne Rooney has returned to England with Birmingham

When a new manager arrives at a club, it is normally because his predecessor has failed — but that will not be the case for Wayne Rooney at Birmingham. 

The England legend replaced John Eustace this week and inherits a team in a strong position. 

Currently sixth in the Championship, the Blues beat West Brom 3-1 last weekend. 

Ahead of Rooney's first match at Middlesbrough next Saturday, we take a look at the changes he is expected to make at Birmingham. 

No fear

In terms of results, Eustace has set the bar high when it comes to what Rooney needs to achieve. 

Last season, Birmingham were favourites to be relegated from the Championship. 

Instead, they finished in 17th with the club's highest points total since 2016.

Eustace built upon that success with a strong start to the current campaign, leaving his team in the play-off positions after 11 games. 

Managers are generally sacked due to poor results. 

In this case, it appears that the new US owners, who bought the club in July, had a burning desire to appoint their own man. 

Birmingham released a statement when they dismissed Eustace which contained a passage that explained what they expect from Rooney. 

It read: "A new first team manager will be announced in the coming days who will be responsible for creating an identity and clear 'no fear' playing style that all Birmingham City teams will adopt and embrace." 

John Eustace will feel hard done by over his dismissal
John Eustace will feel hard done by over his dismissal

Washington plan

At his unveiling earlier this week, Rooney spoke about the style of play that he is hoping to implement. 

He said: "I want us to be a possession-based team, to get the ball forward and excite the fans. 

"Ultimately we have to win and that's the most important thing." 

Finding the balance between playing attractive football and results was something that Rooney struggled with at DC United. 

He initially tried to implement a system based on retaining possession but having found that he did not have the personnel to make it work, switched to more pragmatic methods. 

United utilised a back three under Rooney, with wing-backs providing the attacking thrust. 

A direct style was built around delivering balls that could make the most of striker Christian Benteke's aerial threat. That sort of rudimentary plan is not what Birmingham are looking for. 

Rooney faces the challenge of implementing a bold club-wide philosophy, while also matching the level of results that Eustace provided. 

Derby success

Wayne Rooney impressed during his previous spell in the Championship at Derby
Wayne Rooney impressed during his previous spell in the Championship at Derby

Rooney has some experience in the Championship, having impressed during his time as Derby manager during a difficult period at the club. 

Hampered by a 21-point deduction, the Manchester United legend built a team on a shoestring budget who were relegated but should have finished 17th. 

Despite possessing an ageing set of defenders, Rooney's back four pushed high up the pitch in a 4-2-3-1, enabling the midfield and attack to aggressively press and control possession. 

That sounds far more like what he will be expected to implement at Birmingham and the trust that he showed in young players at Derby, could reap rewards at a club with an impressive academy. 

The first big decision could concern formation, with Eustace's reign ending with his side playing with a back three. 

Rooney has just over a week to prepare his team for a trip to Middlesbrough — managed by former team-mate Michael Carrick — where his fresh vision will be unveiled.


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