Premier League Preview: Blackburn Rovers

My Premier League previews continue with Lancashire side Blackburn in the spotlight. After a strong 2009/10 season under manager Sam Allardyce, Rovers are yet to bring in any big names in terms of summer signings. They will be looking to improve on last season’s 10th place finish. 

            The Blackburn squad is largely unchanged from last term as Allardyce looks to bring some much needed stability to the club. Steven Reid is the only departure of any real note, joining promoted side West Brom on a free transfer. The club are currently being linked with many players, with Roma midfielder Ricardo Faty and former Portsmouth loanee Hassan Yebda among them.  The lack of transfer action for the club may worry some fans.

            Rovers, though, have real quality in their side. Goalkeeper Paul Robinson seems to have settled down at Blackburn and, if the season goes well, could be pushing for an England spot. The former Leeds goalkeeper has the perfect combination of experience, agility and ability to read the game that would be cherished by an England side that could do with a revamp in the goalkeeping department. In front of Robinson Rovers boast the versatile, reliable and, when called upon, attacking asset that is Christopher Samba. The Congo international has proved himself in the last few seasons to be a solid centre-back. Alongside him Blackburn have New Zealand World Cup star Ryan Nelson who, after having a few years of his career ruined by injury, seems to be getting back on his feet and has also proved to be unyielding at the back. The awareness off the ball of Pascal Chimbonda helps a great deal for the right-back, who is as good going forward as he is defending. The pace of the defender could also be of huge benefit to the team, who don’t really possess a speedy winger of sorts. Gael Givet proved last season that he was a competent left-back and is showing all the right signs in pre-season recently, proving that Blackburn are going to be a tough nut to crack this season.
            The story is pretty much the same in the middle of the pitch. The strength and work effort of both David Dunn and Vince Grella could prove very important to Rovers next season; they will be the two players that bridge the gap between defence and attack. Once that bridge has been built, Blackburn will be able to attack freely with the likes of Morten Gamst Pedersen supplying pin-point passes. Steven N’Zonzi and Keith Andrews, as well as Dunn and Grella, will need to push forward to aid with the attacks, though, as it is in the forward areas that Blackburn may struggle.
            The lack of potent goal scorers in the Rovers side is very apparent. Jason Roberts and El-Hadji Diouf have never been high-scoring forwards, while David Hoilett and Maceo Rigters lack a little experience and composure in front of goal. Nickola Kalinic, on the other hand, is a proven goal scorer although, apart from the odd glimpse, he is yet to really show that in the Premier League. If Blackburn are to score goals they may need to dip into the transfer market, with Portsmouth striker John Utaka and Manchester United forward Mame Biram Diouf both names that have also been linked with a move to the club. The on-going speculation that the club is currently considering offers of a takeover, which could pave the way for some big money signings, can only create uncertainty as they prepare for the new season.
            One to watch in the 2010/11 season is Phil Jones. The young English centre-back looked solid and assured at the back last season and will be hoping to have an extended run in the first team this season. Blackburn may not play the most attractive football under Allardyce, but they get the job done. And if they can improve on last season’s tenth place finish, the Rovers’ faithful will certainly not be complaining.

Where will they finish?: 12th
Official relegation odds: 7/1 (Bet365)
Star man: Paul Robinson
One to watch: Phil Jones
Main weakness: Lack of goal scoring ability

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