Sunday, August 14, 2005

Don't panic just yet: an analysis and evaluation of Blackburn Rovers at Upton Park

The situation for Blackburn Rovers at the moment looks very depressing, but there is no reason to panic after only one English Premier League game just yet, according to this Rovers supporter.

Watching today's game English Premiership game between Blackburn Rovers and West Ham live on television from "Down Under" I was, like all Rovers supporters, jumping for joy when captain Andy Todd put us in front against West Ham at Upton Park in the 18th minute today. It really looked like we were well on our way to victory since we were playing so well. However, the game fell apart after that with Rovers conceding three goals, and I put the sole blame on the players for not putting up a decent fight in the 3-1 loss.

Before going into an analysis and evaluation of the manager and each player, I would like to say that on the tactical front I am not convinced that we can sustain playing a 4-4-2 formation for 90 minutes, because defensively we were far too exposed. Admittedly, there is a bit of an argument to the contrary due to our first 45 minutes, but despite playing well early on and keeping a clean sheet in the first half, there were a couple of occasions when we were completely muddled defensively and could easily have let two goals past us: West Ham's poor finishing was the friend that saved us.

In addition, we really did miss Ryan Nelsen today. Despite having no previous English Premiership experience when signed last January, he really was the main reason for our fantastic defensive performances in the second half of last season. That is why I think there is no reason to push the "panic button" just yet: we had such an imposing player who almost single-handedly took the team away from relegation last season on the sidelines, and besides, today really was an atypical "bad day at the office" that is bound to come once in a while for teams outside the top four.

Now here is my analysis and evaluation of the manager and each player who spent time on the pitch.

Mark Hughes (7): I thought his management and tactical analysis was fairly good today. It was the players who failed to carry out their duties, and I seriously hope he gives the players a good spraying.

He started off with a 4-4-2 formation, and that seemed to work well, since we were on top for the first 25 minutes or so. In the second half, he saw the game slipping away from us at 1-1, and so he decided to take Shefki Kuqi off and Vratislav Gresko on, playing a 4-5-1 with Aaron Mokoena as the defensive midfielder. It was a move that put me at ease, since I am very comfortable watching us play like that, but it was not to be with Mokoena having an unusually bad day and was responsible for West Ham's second goal by being beaten by the goalscorer he was marking.

After that, Hughes took off Mokoena for Paul Dickov to put us back into a 4-4-2, which I thought was the right move to try and get back into the game, but we could not get things back together after that.

Despite an overall good performance, Hughes gets negative marks for keeping an unfit Craig Bellamy on the pitch for the whole 90 minutes.

Brad Friedel (7): He let three goals past him, but that was more the fault of the defence than his own, so he gets a high rating amongst a lot of poor ratings.

Lucas Neill (8): I thought he had a very good day in defence, and added a lot to Rovers' attack down the right.

Andy Todd (5): He was beaten for pace regularly, was partially responsible for West Ham's first goal, and did not look up to the task all game. He only gets his five rating for the goal he scored in the 18th minute.

Aaron Mokoena (5): He was doing a halfway decent job on Ted Sherringham in the first half, roughing the old man up, but upon moving to defensive midfield, he really looked poor and was responsible for West Ham's second goal.

Dominic Matteo (6): He was not all that bad at left back and then at centre back. He did not stand out for me, which was a good thing today, actually.

Brett Emerton (5): He looked alright in the first half, doing some good things, getting in amongst the play, but got progressively worse as the game went on and in the end looked absolutely awful. His terrible pass from the bottom right corner into the defensive box gifted the Londoners their third goal, which sealed the game.

Steven Reid (6): He gets a six for being solid, but no more.

Robbie Savage (6): He gets a six for being solid and for making some good tackles which helped us along at times, and also for encouraging his team mates to get on with the game when the referee made some hard decisions.

Morten Gamst Pedersen (7): I am being generous in his rating because he did provide the corner kick cross for Andy Todd's goal, and he did trouble the opposition quite a bit too, but he was far too inaccurate most of the time.

Shefki Kuqi (6): He was mostly invisible and anonymous, but did some decent things, held up the ball a bit, and was strong in the air. His touch needs working on, though.

Craig Bellamy (5): He was missing all game and should not have played the 90 minutes, but it must be kept in mind that he has not had a proper pre-season, which undoubtedly hampered his form.

Vratislav Gresko (6): He was a substitute and did alright at left back, like Matteo, but I wish he would stop whinging at the referees and get on with the game.

Paul Dickov (4): He did nothing in his short time on the ground but whinge at the referees, which really ruined any continuity in our game. He was a bit unlucky to be red carded for his late tackle, which was not vicious, but I am glad he got it all the same, because his constant whinging infuriates me and it will be good not have him off the team for whatever number of games he is out for.

In conclusion, today's match was a damning performance and the wakeup call that Rovers needed. Hopefully manager Mark Hughes can seize on this performance and get the best out of the team in the coming weeks. There is no need to panic just yet, especially when the team looks to have a better attack (which was displayed in glimpses), while every Rovers supporter knows that Hughes' Blackburn can produce first class defensive performances regularly.


At Sunday, August 14, 2005 9:53:00 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blackburn got a proper pasting. How they kept it down to just 3-1 I'll never know.

West Ham superb - created coutless chances, just needed to be more clinical. Should have won by 3 or 4 goals.

At Sunday, August 14, 2005 10:29:00 pm, Blogger .erieth. said...

rovers had a terrible day, and yes, perhaps it was the wakeup call for us. i thought perdersen had a good day, delivering crosses but unfortunately the other strikers werent up to par to give him a hand. and steven reid was pretty invisible on saturday.

perhaps what's been said is really true, the defence is not as tight as when nelsen is there. looking for a much better game next week against Fulham.

At Monday, August 15, 2005 12:40:00 am, Anonymous Jobe said...

Blackburn are one of the dark horses for relegation this season, I'm afraid. Bellamy is renowned for not scoring as many as he should up front, and no one else to really support him, with no decent attacking central-midfielders, goal-scoring types that are really needed for the 4-5-1 to work (think Tim Cahill), Rovers will again struggle for goals. As you said, Todd looked decisively off-the-pace, and will require lots of protection as a centre-back against the quicker strikers. Very little money spent (apart from Bellamy) and very few acquisitions means that it will probably be Pompey, West Brom, Rovers and the 3 clubs that came up in a six-way tussle. Maybe Fulham if they have a bad run.

At Monday, August 15, 2005 10:29:00 pm, Blogger Cathal Breathnach said...

Paul Dickov's tackle I don't think warented a red card because I thought Paul Koncheskey made a meal of it.


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