After a tumultuous season on and off the field in 2010/11 resulting in a 15th place finish in the Barclay's Premier League, Steve Kean's Blackburn Rovers are now faced with critical decisions to make in the close season. Most notably regarding player recruitment.
New Indian owners Venky's have promised Glaswegian manager Steve Kean a £10 million war chest plus any monies received from outgoing transfers in his search for incoming players. The recent sale of local boy Phil Jones to Manchester United for £16.5 million and the likely imminent departure of defensive stalwart Chris Samba places added pressure on the inexperienced Scot to build a team capable of Premier League survival in 2011/12.
Despite a disappointing 2010/11 Premier League campaign, there were glimpses of exciting talent developing within the Ewood Park ranks. The emergence of young attacking talents Martin Olsson and Junior Hoilett in particular provided a pace and penetration not seen since the days of Damien Duff.
The central midfield partnership of Stephen Nzonzi and Shalke loanee Jermain Jones also showed significant promise, particularly prominent in the critical 0-0 away result at the Emirates Stadium against Arsenal in early April.
In order to be successful in the Premier League, the importance of pace is becoming increasingly apparent. A Blackburn Rovers midfield containing Pederson, Dunn, Andrews and Emerton as featured at times during 2010/11 is clearly hugely lacking in pace. Steve Kean needs to bear this in mind when devising a workable formation for the 2011/12 season.
The 4-2-3-1 formation seems to suit the players currently at Steve Kean's disposal and could be bolstered further by a few key additions to the squad. This formation is largely based on fielding two defensive midfielders (Jones and Nzonzi to Brazil's Melo and Gilberto Silva) supplemented by attacking wingers and a playmaker (Hoilett to Brazil's Kaka) working behind a strong central striker.
In order to add pace to the squad Shaun Wright-Phillips could be attained from Manchester City to fill the right wing role with Olsson occupying the left wing position. Junior Hoilett would also fit naturally in the playmaker role behind a central striker. Jason Roberts' power and strength would seem to fit the central striker role but a bid for Tottenham Hotspur's Peter Crouch may be advisable. The pace and guile of Olsson, Hoilett and Wright-Phillips latching on to the flicks and hold up play of Peter Crouch would give problems to many Premier League teams.
In the central defensive positions an attempt should be made to sign the impressive Roger Johnson from relegated Birmingham City with Gael Givet occupying the other central defensive position. In the full back positions Michel Salgado should remain at right back while at left back an attempt to attain Stephen Warnock from Aston Villa should be made. Paul Robinson's excellent form as goalkeeper means this position remains unchanged.
On the substitute bench January 2011 transfer window signings Ruben Rochina and Mauro Formica can be given further time to acclimatise but could eventually easily slot into either the playmaker or winger positions if necessary. Amongst others, Kalinic, Dunn, Emerton, Hanley, Pederson and Nelson could compete for the other substitute positions.
Operating under this formation the formidable central midfield partnership of Nzonzi and Jones would give freedom to the buccaneering fullbacks Salgado and Warnock to get forward in support of the pace and trickery of Olsson, Hoilett, Wright-Phillips et al.
It is of my opinion that this mode of play would fulfill Venky's mission statement to bring both successful results and an exciting style of play back to Ewood Park. Whether this will be achieved in 2011/12 remains inconclusive at this stage, but it should be a fascinating chapter in the club's history.