After an unremarkable and inconsistent start to life in the Championship, Blackburn Rovers sit in a disappointing ninth heading into the latest international break. Since Steve Kean’s inevitable departure a fortnight ago, Rovers have slipped down the table after disappointing performances against Nottingham Forest and most recently Wolves at Ewood.
Eric Black is acting as caretaker manager, though you feel his reign won’t amount to much more than that. After an unconvincing 1-1 draw at Charlton in Black’s first game, Rovers have since drawn two blanks – a line that wasn’t used too frequently under old boss, Kean.
One of Black’s main priorities since taking temporary charge has been that of shoring up the defence. It would appear he has succeeded on this front after conceding just two in three – a vast improvement on recent records. Black experimented with a 3-5-2 formation at Forest a couple of weeks back, though it remains unclear whether this untested formation will be used on a consistent basis once the Venkys get their man.
A crucial appointment
The international break arguably comes at a good time for Rovers. As the club whittle down their shortlist for Kean’s successor, fans will be hoping the hot-seat will be filled by the prime candidate before matchday XI in two weeks time.
A whole host of names have been branded in the press, ranging from ex favourites, Tim Sherwood and Alan Shearer, to the vastly experienced Sven Goran-Eriksson. Club global advisor Shebby Singh, refuses to shine any light on who could take charge, although does admit that the shortlist is currently extremely ‘varied’. It is vital that the club get the fans back onside, in making the correct appointment; Singh, and the Venkys could go a long way to winning back some disinterested fans.
You got the impression under Kean that the starting XI took to the field with no instructions or strategy. It’s refreshing to see Black looking to implement his own style on the side, even if he’s yet to find the correct players for the formation.
Impressive signings were made pre-season, and the nucleus of last years’ relegated squad remained. Some of which were expected to move on (Paul Robinson, Scott Dann, Martin Olsson, Mauro Formica etc.) This surely meant that Blackburn’s performances and position at this stage should be much more inspiring than they have been.
In reality, new signings like Danny Murphy and Dickson Etuhu, who fans hoped would hit the ground running, have instead made poor starts to their Rovers’ careers at times looking off the pace -surprising as both have played their football at a higher level.
Other perennial underachievers, players who should be lighting up this division, such as Mauro Formica and the seemingly never-fit Ruben Rochina, have equally shown little in terms of consistency this season. This simply cannot continue in a league as competitive as the Championship – Not if Rovers are expecting promotion to the promised-land at the first time of asking.
Light up the Rhodes
As alluded on earlier, Rovers’ recent lack of attacking creativity has been alarming to many fans. Do they have that bright spark coming from behind the striker(s).
The prolific Jordan Rhodes, signed for £8 million in the summer transfer window from Huddersfield Town, thrives on opportunities. Under Kean, he made a fast start, scoring twice in as many games as Blackburn continued their kamikaze style of play in creating chances, yet shipping for fun defensively. As soon as the chances dry-up, so do his goals. For all his great poaching attributes, Rhodes will never be a ‘number 10’. His style of play is to play on the shoulder of the defence, rather than come deep and involve himself in much build-up play. He lives off good quality service, and with Rovers currently struggling to create in the opposition half, Rhodes will continue to cut a forlorn figure upfront.
Danny Murphy has been a solid attack minded midfielder throughout his career, though he’s never really a creator of many chances. He takes a good set-piece, but he’s not what you would call a playmaker. Neither is he a source of goals these-days – This season, having played 10 games, he hasn’t contributed with a single goal or assist. Quite concerning, when you bear in mind he was Blackburn’s marquee signing of the summer transfer window, pre-Rhodes.
Former Newell’s Old Boys starlet, Mauro Formica clearly has the talent to succeed at a higher level than the second-tier of the English game, yet hasn’t hit the heights, that many hoped he would. Since joining, Formica has played in a variety of positions, yet hasn’t made one his own. He succeeded in Argentina playing between the lines, often linking up with the striker. Under Kean, he was predominantly used as a wide-man – something which does not suit his game at all. He’s very one-paced, but has the play-making abilities that can be used to great effect in the hole, yet are completely wasted when thrown out wide.
The unproven Portuguese duo of Edinho Junior and Fabio Nunes were never really intended to play a key-role in Rovers’ promotion bid this season, instead seen as prospects. That said, the latter has shown early glimpses when playing from the left side of midfield, and could be one to watch in the coming years.
The anomaly that is Simon Vukcevic is quite astonishing. One of the brightest young talents to emerge out of Montenegro in recent years, the former national captain has featured just a handful of times in an incredibly frustrating 18 months at the club. Clearly out of favour for whatever reason under Kean, he continues to miss out on matchday squads on a regular basis, with many pointing towards the player himself, as well as the gaffer. Rovers’ fans will be hoping the new boss gets Simon on-side, hungry, and in the starting line-up.
Should the Venkys hire the right man, and patch up a few relationships within the squad, Rovers will undoubtedly be a force to be reckoned with. It’s surely only a matter of time before this hugely talented squad shows its potential – It would be the least their fans deserve.
Written by Dave May