We’ve seen this all before, a team promoted from the Championship who surprise everyone and are for the first few weeks of the season, flutter and cajole with the Sky-styled ‘big boys’ of the league? This time it’s not the disagreeable Phil Brown leading an orange-kitted team but the infinitely more likeable Ian Holloway.
Hull City FC were always over-reliant on Geovanni, the big fair-weather Brazilian who was as inconsistent as Henry Winter’s conclusion on managers returning to teams after a family loss . Blackpool, whose financial struggles are widely reported, can be summarised through their inability to sign Bournemouth’s Brett Pitman due to personal teams. Holloway has an indescribably hard job, one that would make many managers lose their sense of humour and affability, transforming them into a dry, pulpy sack of skin and bones.
Holloway has dealt with this by instead of relying on high profile players performing, producing and cultivating a great team spirit incorporated with an attacking system that has so far, produced attractive football and tangible results.
Unlike the majority of promoted sides, Holloway has employed an unconventional system, remarkable in its attacking intent and disregard for defensive rearguard action.
Admittedly their result against Newcastle was largely to do with the heroics of Gilks in goal but their overall play was impressive; quick, snappy passes linked with constant movement that made it difficult for Newcastle to keep up. On the other hand, Newcastle looked typically ale-house during the match – typically it was Andy Carroll who must have woken with a sore head after Newcastle defenders and midfielders pelted long balls at him for ninety minutes. If Blackpool want to continue playing with such panache and entertainment, they rely on keeping one central midfielder fit.
This midfielder is Charlie Adam, scorer of 19 goals from the middle of the park last season, who typically sits and looks to break up the play and start attacking moves off. It is his vision and passing that is the foundation for all things good from Blackpool. Acclaim must be given to Holloway for recognising the strengths of his side, realising his team cannot look to sit and frustrate teams in the Premier League and looking to play progressive, free-flowing football.
From a defensive point of view, Grandin, Vaughan and Adam managed to unsettle and disrupt Newcastle’s midfield. Their pressing is dogged and thorough and with Adam sitting a little deeper, allows Blackpool to keep their shape as well outnumbering or equalling numbers in midfield. Their midfield is capable of battling for the ball whilst also, more importantly, looking to link with Charlie Adam as much as possible.
The midfield is primed for Blackpool’s style of play; with Adam looking to move the ball quickly and the spritely and physical Grandin and Vaughan looking to support the attackers, they look as dangerous as the safety record at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
It’s the fluidity of the front three that is most intriguing. With the opposition full-backs occupied by Blackpool’s wide attackers, it leaves DJ Campbell or the physically imposing Harewood to be the true focal point or pivot of attack. However, as soon as this central forward gets the ball, this is when the wide attackers of Varney or Ormerod spark into life.
By dropping deep and picking up the ball, it sucks the central defenders forward, leaving space behind the defence. With neither Ormerod or Varney looking to ‘put chalk on their boots’, they’re predominantly looking to run into the space manufactured by the centre forward’s movement (1.). The midfield runners also offer more options for Adam, looking to run beyond the opposition midfield and running at the central defence. (2)
Having a look at Charlie Adam’s chalkboard shows exactly the type of passing and movement Blackpool’s forwards are looking for. What they’re looking for are through balls that dissect between centre-backs and full-backs. This happened twice in the first-half; the first time DJ Campbell lost his composure and placed into the feet of Steve Harper before Brett Ormerod gifted Harper another easy save. The second time it led to Ormerod sitting up a chance for DJ Campbell, who scored but was called offside.
This team is built around Charlie Adam, he is the solid foundation that prop up the cheapest of Premier League sides. Charlie Adam is going out to prove that, unlike many promoted sides, this side is not built on the sand that often sinks a team down to the Championship.