Given the impossibly predictive nature of last weekend, when human tragedy impinged on the hard carapace of the Premier league, and made us all think again, the Swans get to travel north to face a team and game that could well have consequences for Steve Kean, Blackburn’s first year, surprisingly chosen, under-siege Manager.
I, along with several thousand JackArmy regulars, will be travelling to this game from South Wales and elsewhere with a hope that this could be our Club’s first Away win in the Division, not least because we are playing well, to both critical and general acclaim. Blackburn Rovers,on the other hand, fans particularly, are unhappy with both their team’s management and performance.
There has been evidence of this to all of us, with regular calls for the removal of the manager Steve Keen, and the demonstrations and general disquiet likely to be on Saturday immediately evident if their team begins, in any sense at all, on the back foot against us.
After all, to their eyes, we’ve just come up from the CCC, and we’re the sort of team they really think they “should” be beating. Particularly, given the merits of both team’s starts, and the current situation in the Table.
Blackburn Rovers, just like Villa last week, are going through what to many of their faithful is a turbulent phase. Don’t forget they are one of four,only, clubs who have ever won the Premier League. Yes, it was when the fear inducing SAS played up front, and Jack Walker’s millions merely set the table for the Abramovich/Sheik Mansour era, but it counts none the less.
Since the Venky’s takeover of last year however, the Club has not gone on to be a “brand leader” either here in the Indian Sub-Continent, however much planned for.
In fact, many supporters have pointed to the new ownership’s lack of Football experience, and a lack of communication from Board via Management to Supporters/Fans is still cited.
The first team squad, 38 deep (2 are out on loan , Andrews at Ipswich and Aley at Southport) is not lightweight, by any means.
The two GK’s are Paul Robinson, ex-Tottenham and Mark Bunn, who started his career at Northampton in 2005. Robinson has been an England keeper, but lost his national place subsequent to his and Gary Neville’s cock-up v Croatia some years back.
He is, nonetheless, a fine shot stopper with a propensity to launch long balls, free kicks etc deep into the heart of the opposition. He bravely won a penalty in the last minute recently, up for a corner. He took a knock, but they scored.
Defenders are listed as Michel Salgado, Gael Givet, Christopher Samba, Ryan Nelsen, Scott Dann, Martin Olsonn, Grant Hanley, Bruno Ribeiro, Myles Anderson and Adam Henley.
Salgado, likely RB and ex-Real Madrid, is at the back end of a stellar career, but retains game nous and savvy in spades.He goes forward well, backwards less so.
At LB we may see Martin Olsonn, the talented Dane, who retains the capacity to play anywhere on the left of the field. A fine dribbler, highly skilled.
The first choice CB’s are normally Christopher Samba, the man-mountain Congolese International, and Ryan Nelsen, the long toothed Aussie Club Captain, injured of late.
Bought in the summer from Birmingham, the highly rated Scott Dann has not yet justified his fee.
Samba, particularly, has an uncanny knack of success in the opponents penalty box when he is thrown forward late in games – wonderful aerially, and a threat from set pieces too. Dann and Nelsen can score goals as well as defend dourly.
Gael Givet from France can play both in the centre of defence and at LB, and again is a dogged defender with bite.
The main defenders listed above are covered by Grant Hanley, Bruno Ribeiro, Myles Anderson and Adam Henley, the young Welshman.
Midfield is chosen from Steven N’Zonzi, a South African ballwinner currently serving a suspension; David Dunn, Mauro Formica, Vince Grella, Morten Gamst Pedersen, Rad Petrovic, Simon Vuckevic, Josh Morris, Jason Lowe, and David “Junior” Hoilett.
Up front they go with Ruben Rochina and Ayegbeni Yakubu. Cover from David Goodwillie and Jason Roberts. Other young pros are listed but unlikely to feature.
Against Cardiff City on Tuesday, in a disappointing Carling Cup Quarter Final, a lot of the extended squad players started in the 2-0 defeat.
Bunn kept goal, with a back 4 of Lowe, Hanley, Dann and Givet.
Midfield was made up of Blackman, Petrovic, Dunn and Pedersen.
Jason Roberts and Goodwillie were up front.
This 4-4-2 is their preferred shape, particularly at home, but like all modern teams they can vary to suit the occasion, and Kean has always had a reputation as an innovative, original coach.
The result has seen Keen claim that they may have “forfeited going through [by losing to Cardiff] and having the chance to reach a cup final,” because…… “We have games against sides within touching distance of us in the league. We need to treat those games as cup finals.”
That’s us, then Steve, eh?
Fans were understandably miffed because he had earlier said…..”We have got a good tie and we’re scoring goals on the road. We’ve said all along that we’d like to go all the way and get to the final and try to win the competition.”
No confusion then. Back to the players.
Hanley is a young internal graduate from the Academy that also produced Phil Jones. Lowe similarly, and he can also play as a holding midfielder.
Blackman is an attacking midfielder cum striker who often plays “in the hole”.Originally signed from Macclesfield in 2009.
Petrovic, the Serb, and Denmark’s Morten Gamst Pedersen, are both regulars for their countries, and the left footed Dane packs an excellent free-kick. (+ recently,a highly contentious occasional corner-kick routine).
Formica is an Argentine playmaker in the No 10 tradition of South American teams. David Dunn, an England cap, although reputedly and evidently injury prone can influence games all over the field with his advanced all round skills.
Jason Roberts, the striker, has had a strong career. A “British” type striker, he contrasts with the young Scot, Goodwillie, signed from Dundee Utd specifically for goals and sharp fox-in-the-box tendencies. Now capped by Scotland, he scored for Rovers on his debut.
I’d like to highlight 3 more players particularly.
David Hoilett, the Canadian youngster, is extremely talented :- one who attacks with verve, skill and energy. Securing a first team place with a terrific 2011, he scored last year’s goal-of-the-season at a West Brom win which was also his first PL goal.
Reuben Rochina was seen a coup signing, from Barcelona, in Jan 2011, where his appearances for the Catalans’ “B” side had gained him Spanish U19 honours.
Finally, there’s the Yak. The much travelled Yakubu Ayegbeni seems to have been around for ages (with consequent discussion of his real age), but at every one of his Clubs, Maccabi Haifa, Everton, Portsmouth, Middlesbrough, Leicester City (loan), he has ALWAYS scored goals.The Nigerian sometimes looks as wide as he’s tall, but whilst less mobile than previously, his skill levels and slipperiness have not diminished.
Having won only once in 13 PL starts, Blackburn will be under some pressure. During that Carling Cup loss at the Cardiff City Stadium, their long-suffering fans again were chanting their “Kean Out” and “You don’t know what you’re doing” which must have been galling and hurtful to the players.
Can we, however, exploitative as it may seem, take advantage of this? We Swans will hope so.
After last week’s heartwarming efforts from both our Team and our Fans, we have lost Angel Rangel to ankle-gah. Danny Graham also sustained foot-twang from one of many Villa players late tackling-oomph. That’s my opinion anyway.
The debate seems to be who will cover for Rangel.
Jazz Richards stepped up admirably, and after a slightly wobbly first five minutes, did well to keep Agbonlahor generally in check. Graham’s fitness will no doubt be assessed this week, but I thought Lita did add something slightly different when he came on to replace DG, carving 2 opportunities for himself. I guess then at a 1- for- 1 re DG and LL, and given Brendan’s trust in his players, Jazz to continue at RB.
Villa, as we saw, did at times try to bully our Midfield. Kemy Agustien is obviously a muscular option, maybe remedy.The make up of the Subs will also be key.
Again, at the end of the day, our Manager and Coaching team continue to show us their greatly appreciated efforts to get it right.That’s not just blind loyalty by me. I’d rather call it a realisation that the trust we have as fans and supporters is being both appreciated and well used.
We will be in good voice. The JackArmy always are. And on Saturday, at Ewood park, I’ll be an equally proud member of it.
Onwards, Swansea City.
This article was written by Peter Thomas