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Lee Bowyer facing selection dilemma in key position for Birmingham City

Matija Sarkic’s form since joining Birmingham City could lead to an awkward selection headache for manager Lee Bowyer.

That’s according to our Blues correspondent Brian Dick, who answered supporters’ questions during a Facebook Live session on Tuesday.

The stand-in goalkeeper, who signed on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers this summer, has played in every game so far this season, taking the place of Neil Etheridge after the Philippines international contracted Covid-19.

Etheridge, who has Premier League experience with Cardiff City, was the number one going into this season, but the 31-year-old has played just once, in the League Cup defeat to Fulham last month.

Sarkic will remain between the sticks until Etheridge is back to full fitness, but it’s not a given that the latter will automatically retake his place in the starting line-up.

While Etheridge is a better shot stopper and the more experienced of the two, Brian Dick has been impressed with Sarkic’s footwork and how well he fits into the team’s system.

“I think Sarkic, after a wobble in pre-season against Northampton and then slightly unconvincing performance against West Brom, has been excellent,” Brian told viewers on Facebook.

“What I would say about Sarkic is that he has been really well protected. Not just the back three and the wing-backs and the defensive midfielders; the whole side has protected Matty Sarkic really well.

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“Shots haven’t rained down on his goal, the ones that have he has largely kept out. Blues have only conceded three in six games this season.

“Where he has been impressive is in his kicking and clearing out from behind. His starting position has been very, very good. And that’s come quite quickly for a guy who arrived just at the start of the pre-season friendlies. It all seems really functional, and the back three and Sarkic all seem to communicate really well and know what they’re doing.

“To me the fact they’ve got so many clean sheets this season, I think you would have to say, when Neil Etheridge is fit, is there an argument for maintaining continuity? I think there absolutely is an argument.

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“If you’re asking me who is the best shot stopper, Neil Etheridge is better. Sarkic is probably better with his feet. It’s a fair question to ask.

“I’d be reluctant to go either way until Etheridge has 100 percent fully regained his aerobic and anaerobic fitness in terms of muscle mass and conditioning.

“If it’s a level playing field and both keepers are as fit as each other, it is a head scratcher. I cannot deny that, because Sarkic has come in and done really well.”

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