This season will mark the tenth consecutive year that Blackburn Rovers have played top flight football – since having been promoted from the Championship in 2000. They have been very consistent in their finishing in the Premier League having finished 10th last season, the third time they have done so in the last ten years, along with their fourth top half finish in five seasons.
Blackburn have been eerily quiet on the transfer front because of their distinct lack of funds available. There have been a few players on trial for Rovers, but none have been given a permanent deal just yet. Big Sam Allardyce was a bit of a wheeler dealer in his time a Bolton so it will be up to him to try and unearth some gems or work with what he already has. Out of favour Stoke striker James Beattie has been linked with a move back to his former club but to no avail.
Last season Ewood Park turned into a bit of a fortress for Rovers as they were beaten on just three occasions –Tottenham, Manchester City and Everton all left victorious and went away with three points, apart from that they managed to keep the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United all at bay. They also reached the semi-final of the Carling Cup before being soundly beaten by Aston Villa who reached the final.
Blackburn are a very similar side to Bolton Wanderers – Allardyce’s former club – where he managed to keep them above the top 10 for 4 seasons, along with leading them to the now defunct UEFA Cup for the first time in their history and that is certainly something he will be aiming for this season with Rovers. While 10th is a solid position in the league there is always scope for improvement, however – the question is: can they really improve on 10th?
Without question their Achilles heel is finding the back of the net or an out an out striker who scores goals. Midfielder David Dunn was their highest scorer in the league last season with nine goals, while Jason Roberts was the next highest goalscorer with a return of five goals – a very poor showing for a striker, especially when you consider defenders Ryan Nelsen and Christopher Samba scored a combined total of eight. So, in terms of improvements their strikers need to be finding the net more often than their defenders.
One of the revelations of last season was young defender Phil Jones. Jones, who has already received a lot of attention from other Premier League clubs and was hailed for his performances in central defence at the back end of last season – he has already been tipped as one to watch in the future by this very blog. At the end of the season, Jones signed a new five year contract with Rovers which will keep him at the club until 2015.
Right now, Blackburn are in a dangerous place because they will be one of the many clubs that are challenging for at least a mid-table finish. However, the teams that will be looking to finish don’t possess the experience in their squad that Allardyce has. Personally, he needs to make at least one or two signings before the season starts – even if they are loan signing or short-term deals, they will add some more depth to the squad.