Rovers' Central Defensive Options…
Following Stephane Henchoz's claims that he is indeed the man to tighten up the Blackburn Rovers defence some interesting points would be made; one such point got me thinking...
Vital Blackburn Journalist James Watson (also known as roversman) would post the following comment which in particular would get me thinking about possible alternative defensive options with pace on their side, in terms of switching people around currently in the side, or merely using those also available to the club:
"My concern is once again a lack of pace.
"We are devoid of any great pace in our back four, Neill and Emerton aren't bad but none of our central defenders can keep up with the majority of pacey strikers, unfortunately the same applies to Henchoz.
"I know he talks about using your head which is very useful but it's that fear of once our defence has been turned then there is no catching the attacker."
The simple truth is, and Henchoz alluded to this himself that once you get older, no matter how quick you once were you lose this pace. If you never had it, which unfortunately most, if not all of the currently recognised and used central defenders at the club never did have you are in trouble.
With the European game generally played at a slower tempo Rovers are well suited to this (again as highlighted by roversman) however when faced with the likes of Theo Walcott, Thierry Henry and Craig Bellamy to name but a few, who are renowned for their pace among other obvious qualities Rovers will always suffer unless changes can be made.
Ryan Nelsen is currently out injured, and despite not possessing blistering pace himself he is no slouch, yet his mere presence seems to install more believe in the back four. In his absence Zurab Khizinashvilli and Andre Ooijer are the currently preferred pairing, although Andy Todd and Lucas Neill have been paired, as have Khizinashvilli and Todd themselves. What other options are available? More than you might think really...
With Dominic Matteo seemingly out of the equation and lacking pace, Andy Todd not favoured but also lacking pace, and with Henchoz not fully fit, but once again himself lacking pace, the obvious choice would be to switch Lucas Neill back to a central role having looked so comfortable when playing their in the World Cup for Australia. Neill, who is not short of speed, has more than proved he is more than effective in such a role and would leave the left side free for a number of potential suitors...
...Michael Gray being the obvious left-back choice, but we mustn't forget the other left sided options. Jay McEveley, he's played there many times and is after all an International with Scotland at U21 level, formerly with England at a similar level. Youngster Andy Taylor, yet to make his senior debut but the 20-year-old has already played for England at U19 and U20 levels and is very highly rated, so his debut would have to come at some time. Although unlikely, he can also play in a central role, so an outside contender for that position.
Another candidate for a central defensive role would be Aaron Mokoena who can, and has played as a defender many times for Rovers and South Africa, he can also move a little, although personally I think he is better as a defensive midfield cover to the back four.
What about Eddie Nolan? At 18-years-old if he is slow then you worry! He has made tremendous progress through the youth and reserve sides, with Eddie a regular in the reserves despite his young age. Hughes rates him highly and hasn't been afraid to bring him into squads, he would in fact be on the bench for the UEFA Cup 1st leg tie in Austria so Sparky has no qualms over him. So much like Taylor if he's good enough, which he clearly is he's got to start a game sooner or later, maybe why not sooner?
With all the options available unless he opted for those mentioned including Nolan or even Taylor, either of whom I wouldn't mind seeing given a chance, surely the most obvious would be Neill? With Hughes giving Khizinashvilli and Ooijer their chance to impress it all boils down to which one would be left out to accommodate this? Both can play at right-back so they wouldn't have to be sacrificed although Brett Emerton would.
Basically with a left-back coming in I'm left with Neill in a central defensive role alongside Khizinashvilli or Ooijer, with whichever one I favoured less in the central role playing alongside Emerton at right-back with Rovers having twelve men! I'm unwilling to drop Brett you see, and not sure I'm brave enough to call between Khizinashvilli and Ooijer...
But as you can see there are options available to Hughes, the joys of being a football manager Sparky!
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