Blackburn Pre-Match Tactical Analysis
Rovers have struggled of late, chalking up just four points in their last seven games - which is the exact same record as the Seasiders.
Whilst it's not quite at the stage of do or die just yet, the significance of three points could be crucial going into the final eight Premier League games.
So, where should Pool be looking to exploit if they are to get a result at Ewood Park?
Too keen to pressurise the ball
The most galling thing about watching Blackburn recently is their willingness to shut down opponents extremely quickly - especially in the midfield area. The Guardian chalkboard below shows Damien Duff's goal against Rovers in their last fixture.
What is apparent from the move above is that the slow patient build up play from Fulham down the right hand side is tracked well by Rovers defenders. However, if the ball is moved quickly enough when defence pressure increases - as can be seen in the middle third - then a meaningful attack on goal is forthcoming. In fact, the Fulham left back joined the play (drawing parallels to Stephen Crainey) and was key in drawing central midfielders out of their position. Three Blackburn midfielders converged on the left back Salcido when he made a pass which saw them out of the game.
The ball was then slipped up to Dickson Etuhu - who was at the head of the Fulham midfield in the move but could easily be replaced with a striker for arguments sake - finding wide man Duff who had come off his line to score.
Quick but methodical passing was the undoing of Rovers that time, and with Adam, Vaughan and Grandin likely to play in the middle, Pool could find a way of unlocking the home defence.
Deep defensive line at home
The Fulham goal above was obviously away from home, hence why they were keen to close down the ball quickly and not let the opposition settle. This has been a trait in Blackburn's game for years, but when defending against Tottenham Hotspur in February, it is interesting to note the starting position of defenders when dealing with crosses from deep.
The sheer size of Chris Samba in particular mean that defending from deep is something which comes naturally, because they will invariably win most of the headers in and around the box. However, such a deep stance could work into Blackpool's advantage because it is unlikely that they'll attempt many crosses into the box - especially from 35/40 yards as in the Spurs goal above.
However, punting one or two balls into the box could be a plan worth exploring. The Seasiders could use the Rovers backline to get the head of the midfield triangle (which is likely to be Elliot Grandin) into the game as second phase ball is competed for. Normally the player in that position will find a pocket of space in which to work around 30 yards from goal, but I would expect that to be five, possibly 10 yards, further on at Ewood Park, bringing us onto looking at the head of the triangle.
Blackburn's set up puts huge importance of who to pick at the head of the midfield triangle - possibly more than normal. Below we see Elliot Grandin's passing map in the 5-3 defeat at Everton. We can see that in the areas being talked about - where he could pick up second ball - Grandin has a 50% passing accuracy.
Contrast Grandin with Andy Reid when he played against West Ham United (below); Reid's passing accuracy in the final third was better and in a game which Pool really struggled to find their feet from the word go - corners taken by both players not withstanding.
I'm not advocating the inclusion of Andy Reid (because his defensive abilities are outshone by Grandin) but his largely unnoticed work in and around the box could be the key to unlocking the holes in the home defence. This can be linked back to the graph at the top of the article which stated quick passing might be something which the Seasiders can press on with in their quest for goals.
Perhaps Reid would be a good option later in the game if things haven`t gone to plan as he hovers behind the lead striker.
For all their good, well organised attributes, Blackburn do have holes which are there to exploit and if the right team is picked with wingers willing to roam and the central midfielders to take hold of the game, there is no reason why the team can't pick up three points on Saturday.