Season Preview: Blackburn Rovers

by Kevin Coleman

This will be Blackburn’s 10th consecutive campaign in the Premier League, as Sam Allardyce’s ranks hope to build upon last season’s top ten finish. Blackburn have been relatively consistent since arriving in the Premier League, having finished 10th on three occasions, and the fourth time they’ve finished within the top half of the table.

Blackburn (and Sam Allardyce) are probably the marmite team of the Premier League. Tough tackling tactics and long ball play that is often talked about and criticised, a method of play that Allardyce has brought from his days at Bolton. But sometimes, it really is quite effective – particularly at home.

Blackburn only lost thee times at Ewood Park last season, showing the fortress that has been created. Also noteworthy is the way they shut out the big teams to try and guarantee a point, having drawn with Chelsea, Manchester Utd and Liverpool at home last season, before beating Arsenal in their penultimate game of the season. Such home form should be admired, no matter what way it comes about, but this season will be another hard slog for Rovers. Can they improve without finances and strenghtening their squad?

Last Season: 10th
Odds: 1000/1
Manager:
Sam Allardyce
In: Hugo Fernandez (Union Deportiva Cornella, nominal fee)
Out: Michael Hall (Accrington Stanley, free), Andrew Howarth (Bury, free), Marcus Marshall (Rotherham United, free), Steven Reid (West Bromwich Albion, free), Jordan Bowen (released), Josh Swann (released)

WHAT’S CHANGED?

In terms of transfers at Blackburn this summer, very little has changed.

One only player has arrived in at Ewood Park, young Hugo Fernandez – a defender from Spain. He was highly coveted by a number of teams, but it is believed he chose to join Rovers for a nominal fee after speaking with Allardyce and Michel Salgado.

A couple of young players have left the ranks at Blackburn, while the only senior player to move on is Steven Reid who joins West Brom after playing there on loan last season.

Tactics: Big Sam likes to vary his line-ups and formations from game to game, depending on the opposition. Despite criticisms for his long ball tactics, the ex-Bolton manager does try to innovate with his squad at hand and it is flexible enough to change against whatever opposition they face on the day. However his systems are often quite conservative, using five in midfield, or just one up top. His favourite system, not surprisingly, is 4-4-2. It is one that is built on a strong defence, and rotatable options at centre half (Samba, Nelson, Jones). Neither full back is particularly attacking (Salgado and Givet, but Chimbonda can get forward) while the midfield is reserved centrally but he often plays the more attacking Pedersen and Dunn in an attacking midfield role. Again, the wide players are rotated (Diouf, Emerton, Olsson, Pedersen) while the forward options are limited, and often lacking in goals (Roberts, Kalinic and Diouf).

Key Player: Blackburn have some fantastic young players coming through, but their key man is the wily old head of Ryan Nelson at the back. The New Zealand captain was heroic at the World Cup, and has been a consistent and reliable performer for Blackburn over the last few years.

Fixtures: Blackburn begin their 2010/11 campaign with a tough home tie at Everton, but one that they are more than capable of winning. That is followed with a trip to Birmingham, and then another tough home tie against Arsenal. Blackburn then visit Eastlands to play Manchester City, and finally a home tie against Fulham.

First five fixtures: Everton (H), Birmingham (A), Arsenal (H), Manchester City (A), Fulham (H)

Where will they finish? They have a relatively strong line-up, with good options at the back and a strong system that is capable of grinding out wins. However, with the lack of real heavy depth and options up front, they’ll struggle to score goals. Teams ahead of them are buying players and getting better, Blackburn still don’t have a good striker. 14th

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