With the Lancashire derby approaching, Burnley fans once again find themselves looking upwards to find Blackpool above them in the Championship table. It is difficult not to compare the similarities of both clubs’ situations, relegated after one season in the promised land, following a surprise promotion through the Championship play-offs and see how much better Blackpool have fared since then.
Clearly aided by the stability of retaining their manager and the bulk of the Premier League squad, unlike the Clarets, Blackpool appear to have dealt much better with life after the Premier League, possessing an exciting young squad, full of attacking talent. They almost saw a return to the Premier League last season with a play-off final defeat and a promotion push is looking like a very realistic possibility this time around, despite a recent blip. All this has been achieved despite an £11 million payment being paid to a company connected to chairman Karl Oyston – far more than the loan repayments made to Burnley directors following promotion to the Premier League. So what do Blackpool fans make of their current predicament? John from Blackpool FC blog Tangerine Dreaming kindly provides a valuable insight to how the Tangerines have performed this season, why their form seems to have dipped in recent weeks and what this could mean for Saturday’s derby game:
“We started the season superbly putting together some fantastic performances before settling in to the Blackpool we saw a lot of last season. Why that it is is rather difficult to understand. Essentially two factors may be at the root of this. Team selection and defensive work.
Taking the first one of those issues, team selection, it’s clear, as has been the case from all of Ian Holloway’s time here is that he takes a while to settle on his first choice XI. It appears to stem from the numbers coming in to the club giving him great options, but at the same time, a dilemma as to how to best integrate new players without impacting on the current players. For example, Isaiah Osbourne has come to the club this season and he is a fantastic midfield runner as well as adding in a blocking a tackling presence in the centre of the pitch. However, in bringing his qualities it appears to have given Holloway a headache about how to select his best midfield.
Towards the end of last season Angel Martinez was the fulcrum of the midfield and it appeared that he was forming a solid double pivot for Blackpool with Stephen Dobbie ahead of them linking midfield and attack. This season (with Dobbie going elsewhere) Tiago Gomes has come in to that more advanced role offering more quality in terms of first touch and link up play even if he doesn’t yet carry the goal threat of Dobbie. However much he appears first choice in that role, the inclusion of Osbourne has broken up the Martinez/Ferguson axis. Martinez/Osbourne has looked promising but rarely picked first. Rather, it has been Ferguson/Osbourne playing more minutes together and this partnership has yet to gel.
Firstly, from a positional point of view Osbourne covers ground much higher up the pitch leaving Ferguson isolated and secondly, Ferguson appears to benefit from someone collecting the ball from him and injecting energy in to the game. Just from this alone you can begin to appreciate the issues that Holloway faces and why he is still searching for the right blend. Just who Holloway picks in midfield on Saturday will be arguably set the tone for the match. If his midfield three blend and dictate the pace of the game then Burnley will need discipline and hard work to stop Blackpool from playing. However, if the blend is wrong then Blackpool’s patterns will break down early in midfield and balls will start being played more directly.
Blackpool ended last season solid in defence and began this season in the same fashion, before embarking on a series of poor displays where balls in to the box weren’t attacked with great endeavor nor were the team defending as a unit. Holloway appeared to point to defensive work being his greatest concern after the last match and with an international break to work with his team to drill them back in to shape. If this has been effective then again, that’ll become apparent in the first quarter of the game. Burnley would be wise to try a two-pronged attack early, quick balls over the top if pressure isn’t exerted by the Pool midfield and attack and crosses in to the box early and often. It’s for this reason that the prediction is so generous. It’s not yet clear that Blackpool have sorted out their defensive issues. Blackpool on the other hand can be exceptionally potent in attack and provided all players are fit and fresh after their international break then it should be a high-scoring game.
Consistency is the key for Blackpool should automatic promotion be the target, however, given the competitive nature of the league, that is always hard to come by. Even now it would appear that a play off spot is the more realistic aim, but only if Holloway can get his side churning out the positive results.”
You can follow Tangerine Dreaming on Twitter (@Tanger_Dreaming)
Do you think Burnley will be able to capitalise on Blackpool’s weaknesses on Saturday, or will Blackpool’s attacking threat simply be too strong? Comment below.