We have good attackers and it showed last match.Alen Halilović
The Croatian playmaker made his Blues bow in the victory over Bristol City, playing the final 20 minutes after being introduced by Aitor Karanka.
And having impressed from the bench, Bluenoses will be excited to hear that Halilović feels he is only getting started in terms of his own performances.
Speaking via Zoom ahead of the Club’s midweek trip to Reading, the attacking midfielder discussed settling in with his new teammates, head coach Aitor Karanka and what he expects from the Royals.
Formerly on the books of both Barcelona and AC Milan, Halilović revealed he has been warmly greeted by his new teammates, including compatriot Ivan Sunjic.
He told BCFC.com: “I really felt welcomed because the players all spoke with me and tried to help me. The atmosphere is really good, it’s a really good group and we just have to bring that on the pitch.
“In every team atmosphere is important and the atmosphere is good, when you trust your teammates everything else will follow.”
Despite a challenging run, the atmosphere the 24-year-old references has remained positive and he believes it was key in the performance which Blues delivered against the Robins.
He said: “I was happy after we scored the goal because we didn’t just go back and defend because it was 0-1. We continued to pressure and keep the ball. I think that is the key.
“It was a really good effort of the team and every player was happy and we showed after the last few weeks we are a good team.
“I felt really good in the last 20 minutes because all of the second-half we continued to attack, to create chances and finally we scored from a set-piece.”
Along with the resolute defensive platform, which is becoming a staple of Blues’ performances, Saturday’s display also represented the side’s attacking talents. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Halilović spoke with enthusiasm about who he will be teaming up with.
He said: “We have good attackers and it showed last match. Ivan Sanchez is really calm with the ball and can play one against one. Bela is also a dangerous player and he runs deep, so we have different types of players. Riley can also play box to box and the two strikers, Scotty [Hogan] is fast and moves around, Jukey [Lukas Jutkiewicz] can keep the ball for us or when we cross the ball [he is dangerous]. We have all different types of attackers.”
With such a variety of options in his frontline it appears Karanka may have a positive selection headache in the weeks to come, and Halilović went on to speak about the man who persuaded him to join Blues.
He explained: “[Karanka] told me we are really good defending and he liked to play with a number ten and that is a really important role for him. He told me that he thought I can help the team with taking chances, but in this league you have to run a lot because a lot of number tens play box to box, but I said that when you have your teammates behind you talking to you then it’s easier. I think I can help the team in this way.
“He told me that the club was really good, that the club was really big, and the fans were really good when the stadium is full and help the team when we play at home. Everything he told me about the project and about the players, when I started to watch the matches, I saw what my role would be and how I could help. I am happy to be here.”
Having earlier fielded questions from local media, the man from Dubrovnik went on to detail for BCFC.com what he is hoping to contribute as he returns to full fitness and continues to adapt to the Sky Bet Championship.
He said: “I felt really good in the last match, I had the ball, some touches and a chance to score, so when I play more and more I will have more chances and I will get my confidence back and calm the match. I think I am really good with the ball to create chances. The season is really long, and I just have to work in training and my time will come – maybe not in five or ten days but as the team are going up, I think I will also be.”
Having been used at the first opportunity after his international clearance was confirmed, Halilović will be looking for more minutes as Blues face their third of eight matches in December.
Again, on the road, Karanka’s men travel to high-flying Reading and the Croatian international is expecting a serious test, but not one that will be impossible to overcome.
“I think they are the best team in the league", said Halilović. "I spoke with their coach, Veljko Paunović, he is Serbian and is a brilliant coach. I watched a lot of his team and their matches, and they impress me how they play. They play really good football with a lot of possession, create chances and have really good technical players.
“When I started to speak with Aitor [Karanka] I watched the league, and this is the team who impressed me most. I think it will be a really tough match for us, but if we come like we did in the last match being compact, and not just let them play, but from the first minute show them that we come there to win because we believe in ourselves and our team. If we do this, we will have a big chance against them.”
“We have to continue to be compact and good in defence. We know how to defend and keep clean sheets, but also, we need to make a little progress offensively, but I think we showed in the last match that we did this.”
You can see if Blues can make it back-to-back wins on the road when they visit Reading on Wednesday. The full game is available to watch live on BluesTV.