Rovers Mid Season Report
With the season pretty much a quarter over the need for analysis has finally kicked in and I am going to be assessing each part of the squad, the areas of improvement needed and who has been pulling their weight (not a Benni McCarthy joke)... and who has not.
We'll start at the back -
This is mainly a look at Paul Robinson and how he has fared but it is safe to say we have about as reliable back up as could be expected in Jason Brown who has shown loyalty by staying at the club for years under Brad and now Paul.
Robinson has had a mixed bag of a season but has pulled off some great saves. I think we can all safely say that the majority of goals we ship are the defences fault so Paul should not be labelled too harshly with the excessive amount of goals we have conceded - he has been exposed far too often.
Robbo's performances this season if anything have been slightly more commanding than last but he could stand to be a little more assured on crosses, that is the one area he can be caught out. But the goals conceded column in the League Table an unfair reflection of Robinsons' good work so far.
His reactions have improved along with his confidence under the coaching of Bobby Mimms and I am sure this will stand us in good stead for the rest of the season, that is of course if we sort the following riff raff out...
Verdict - So far so good
The personel that make up the defensive aspect of our squad are a fairly impressive bunch on paper - Nelsen, Samba, Givet, Chimbonda, Jacobsen, Salgado, Olsson. I haven't even mentioned the reliable and on loan Zurab Khizanishvili as well!
But the defence has struggled for any sort of coherence and consistency and have been the main reason why Rovers currently sit in 17th in the table, irrespective of who they have played.
This may be down to the fact that the Rovers have actually got more good names than they should and all need to be rotated around to get game time - meaning we haven't had a settled back four this season.
But I suspect that the lack of pace hasn't helped cover lightning fast Premier League forwards - only Chimbo and Samba can lay claim to any pace.
When the games turn into battles like most of our homes games turn into (Burnley, Wolves, Villa) then players such as Nelsen and Jacobsen are great, they battle with the very best of them but when they are moved around by opposition attacks, thats when the problems start. To me that indicates a lack of understanding between the players, something only time will heal.
A small part of the leaking of goals may also stem from the defensive tactics Sam uses, particularly away, which puts extra pressure on the defence to perform.
For me, only Gael Givet can lay claim to having been consistent. Nelsen and Samba have been good in patches.
Verdict - Improvement is needed.
he strongest aspect of the squad by quite a distance. The midfielders in the squad are Emerton, Diouf, N'Zonzi, Pedersen, Andrews, Van Heerden, Grella, Reid and Dunn. Thats quite a list and there are some very successful and established EPL players in their that can pull their weight.
The midfield as a whole has been fine and has stuck to task well but lacks a great deal of creativity now the awesome Tugay has retired.
Lets start with the obivous, David Dunn has been Blackburn Rovers players of the season by a mile, its not even close, he has been magnificent. But he has done this from 'the hole' behind the striker. Not that there is a massive problem with that as he has given us an extra edge - opposition team players look at Dunn and know he will cause damage, he is basically a top 4 standard player who has been injured too much.
But the others have failed to sparkle in the final third to help out.
Diouf has been effective as hell one week and then annoying as heel the next. N'Zonzi has been a find and can play but is still 'green', but he will come good. Andrews has been poor, Pedersen started well and then faded.
Emerton has looked good since he came back (bar Chelsea when everyone was dreadful) and is too soon to comment much. The other Aussie in the ranks, Grella, has looked super tough and ready when on the pitch this season, a starter for sure, but he gets injured with alarming frequency. Otherwise he would tuck into the holding role nicely.
Van Heerden hasn't been on the pitch yet as he is too small and Sam is building him up and finally Reid is coming back from the treatment table again so will not critique him.
All in all its a mixed bag for sure.
Verdict - Good but more players need to add a spark at the attack end of the pitch.
We have consistently played one up front for the whole season so chances have been limited up top for the main strikers.
Junior Hoilett looks electric but has mainly played on the right wing as an impact substitute, which is ok as his time will come for Rovers as he looks dynamite.
Jason Roberts started in the lone striker position with Dunn starting and looked serviceable, as in he did loads of running but apart from stealing Gael Givets' goal against Wolves he has been... er well, Jason Roberts. Tough, strong, shouts a lot but rarely scores.
Step up the young lad from Chelsea, Franco Di Santo, on loan till January (or May with any luck) he has been an excellent aquisition for a loan spell. He looks like a Chelsea star. His touch has been exemplary, his work rate the same as J-Robs' but his effect at bringing others into play and looking dangerous is what sets him apart from others. He is a star for the future, not for Rovers, but for the game in general.
Benni has done nothing but look slightly slimmer than last year and play regularly in the Carling Cup - but we want more and so does he. Problem is that he thinks threatening to leave will do the trick, it won't, working hard will.
Kalinic has been a strange one. To start with he looked like a hard working carthorse at first. In his debut against Sunderland he looked like a Croatian Shola Ameobi. Luckily since then he has been steadily getting better to the point where he scored a perfectly good strikers goal at Old Trafford last weekend. Yes, the linesman ruled it out but it was a goal, don't kid yourself! He will come good will Nikola, he is starting to look the business and will play more of a part as of January I am sure.
As long as we play one up front with Dunn off the main striker though at least one of the strikers will be kicking their heels a lot.
Verdict - Di Santo good, Kalinic getting there, McCarthy perhaps unlucky but same problems remain, Roberts has a long way back.