Three games in and 7 points on the board. At the beginning of the season, I’m pretty sure most Rovers fans would have bitten your hands off – unbeaten after games against Ipswich, and then promotion contenders Hull and favourites, Leicester. Seven points, and one clean-sheet – fantastic.
Have a look beneath the surface and watch any of the three matches and even the most biased of the Ewood faithful would admit, we have been lucky to get points on more than one occasion. The performances have been poor, at times we have been outplayed, but somehow have come out on top – a sign of a good team you may say? Or maybe, a sign of the inexperience, poor skill of the opposition?
This league is a tough league which makes all the more unbelievable that we remain unbeaten. The secret? First of all, luck. Goals allowed and goals disallowed on the back of seemingly incorrect linesman’s decisions. Second of all, the ability to keep the ball and absorb pressure when necessary. What Blackburn have had this year, which was lacked last year, is someone composed on the ball. Someone who can make a simple pass and defence splitting pass at the right times, when needed. Combine this with the inexperience of some of the opposition, and the opportunities which have been presented to the blue and white halves have been taken.
So, are Rovers just lucky, or is it good management and tactics? At this point in time, I have to air on the side of luck. The tactics from Steve Kean have again been questionable – playing a central midfielder at left back, switching the left side of midfield, and as always, sitting deep and trying to protect a 1-0 lead. Perhaps the most obvious of the tactical misdemeaners, or maybe the most confusing, is the introduction more than twelve months after signing, of Bruno Ribeiro – or as many know him – “Dennis Irwin”. Signed from Brazilian side Gremio in the summer of 2011, Ribeiro did not feature once in Blackburn’s ill-fated relegation campaign, and did not even feature on the bench. Yet three games in, he is now a cult figure with the fans. Knowing the Dennis Irwin hype surrounding him, and the fact that he has never before featured – both his appearances this season have been greeted with a sort of half-mocking, half-distraught, fanfare – at least for the first game against Hull – but then his first full start, against Leicester, the Brazilian played more than capably at right back, before moving forward and proving just as effective at right-wing – a performance that earnt him man of the match. If you’d have predicted that, even as recently as the Ipswich game, you would have been ridiculed. So why has Kean now decided to play him? At times last season we struggled in defence, often playing young central midfielders out of position, or throwing youth team players in at the deep end. At 29, and having played all his career in Brazil, Ribeiro would hardly have been inexperienced, and would have played against many an effective attacking player.
The game on Saturday against Leicester again showed Kean’s inability to make a decision – for the entire second half, the Blackburn End shouted for Ruben Rochina. At first Kean ignored the shouts, but as they got louder, it seemed the more Kean considered the option, until he finally brought him on. At this level, Rochina has the ability to rip teams to shreds and create the chances and score the goals himself – he would be more than competent in the Premier League – but by keeping him on the sidelines, I fear Kean has alienated him to an extent that he would jump at a second chance in the top league, most likely, playing every week.
As the transfer deadline approaches, I fully expect players to leave – mainly Olsson, N’Zonzi, Vuckevic and maybe even Robinson and Rochina – but Scott Dann’s mistake on Saturday could leave him stranded at Ewood until at least January. Coming in, I’m not too sure. I think we need a right-winger and at least one other striker and potentially another centre half. However, if you were a footballer, would you choose Blackburn Rovers, a Championship club in turmoil, the fans still against the manager and owners, over a Premier League Club? The rumours of Rickie Lambert being the next target are almost laughable – it questions just exactly what does Shebby Singh advise on? Other than transfer gossip, rumours about sackings and slandering the players?
Back to the orginal question: road to promotion or prolonging the inevitable? As a true Rovers fan I hope it’s the promotion option, but I can’t help feel that when that first defeat comes, it may be the first of many, which, in turn, will lead to the crowd (those who bother to attend) to turn again on Kean and the owners – lets just hope that this defeat comes long in to the season and doesn’t lead to a crash back down to earth (or further) as I think it might.
One final note – chuffed to bits for Pedersen – proving that he has the quality to succeed and contribute at this level – no other player in blue and white could have scored that goal!