The switch back to 4-4-2 from 4-5-1 resulted in a comprehensive win and plenty of goal attempts as we defeated Blackburn 4-2. We might not be able to stick with this formation in every game, but it seems clear that it’s in our best interests to change to it from time to time.

I would not like us facing Arsenal away next week with Van der Vaart leaving a big gap down the right as he drifts infield, but for home games against beatable teams like Blackburn, 4-4-2 is probably the way to go for the time being.

Pavlyuchenko certainly looked happier with a partner up front, even if he and Crouch didn’t exactly work as a tandem. It was a mixed afternoon for the Russian, as he missed both a sitter and a penalty, before scoring our second goal. He certainly looked a lot livelier then when he’s expected to do the donkey work of a lone striker. It was also nice to see Crouch finally get the league goal that all his hard graft deserves.

Defoe should be back imminently and he can combine with both Crouch and Pavlyuchenko pretty well. How well the little forward will do in a 4-5-1 away from home or in Europe is open for debate, but if we can play him in a 4-4-2 at home and win most of those games, it seems as if we’ll be able to stay within touching distance of the top four, considering the way that everyone else is dropping points. There’s also always the (forlorn?) hope that we’ll sign a striker in January to ease all our tactical worries.

The game was also notable for Gareth Bale’s return to league form. While other teams have nullified his pace of late, Blackburn just didn’t have anyone who could live with his speed. Salgado and Chimbonda both came off second best, as Bale caused havoc down the left.

What’s so unusual about Bale is the quality of the final ball when travelling at pace and the cross for Pavlyuchenko’s goal was fantastic. When you consider what a player he could become when he improves certain aspects of his game, it truly is frightening. The headed goal was very well taken and with his size he could become a real aerial threat around the opposition box, just as Cristiano Ronaldo is.

Unsung heroes for me were Alan Hutton, who had another good game and Jermaine Jenas, who worked hard and showed plenty of energy. Although he had a decent match, I’m unsure of the Jenas/Modric pairing away from home or against more ambitious sides. With Huddlestone out for a while, it’s time for Palacios to recover his form or for Sandro to step up to the Premier League pace.

It’s encouraging and also frustrating that we are now only three points off Manchester City in third place, as we could easily have earned another 5-10 points this season. I’ve always taken the view though, that as long as we are in touching distance by the time that we are eliminated from the Champions League, then we’ll have a decent enough chance of finishing in the top four and so far we’re hanging in there.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. nice piece, mate. We need to make a big statement this saturday. a result is a must, we need to get ourselves on a positive run now, picking up some big wins whilst not losing any more silly points at home.

  2. Disagree about Hutton unfortunately. he was average at best, thought Hollitt gave him a terrible time (and a couple of nutmegs), especially in the first half. With VDV drifting a solid Defensive right side DEFENDER is what we need, I.E. Corluka!

  3. Agree with Ossie, Hutton is so poor – Corluka please!! Also we really miss Hudd, Jenas did OK first half but we need Tom for the weekend to have a decent chance.

  4. You caught us on a really bad day at the back – we have usually been much more solid defensively and I reckon that three of the goals were down to bad defending more than good attacking, although we did get run ragged by the excellent Gareth Bale. Apart from that you got a pen that never was and like us you missed a couple of real sitters. In fact I think we had more (unconverted) goal chances than you did. And BTW Robbo may have conceded four but he was the better keeper on the day and is playing brilliant for us…..wouldnt surprise me to see Man Utd come in for him as a replacement for VD Sar…?

    Not sure why you want to sign yet another striker?
    How many do you want, you must have more than any other prem cub (when all are fit)….Keane, Pav, Crouch, VD Vaart, Defoe and probably at least another couple in the stiffs. We could do with one of them ourselves – Keano would be ok and do a good job up at Ewood….whilst you could probably do with Samba or Jones at the back, you really need to tighten-up there boys.

    Enjoy the run in Europe and maybe a cup run too, sorry but dont think you have what it takes to land a top 4 spot yet. Man Utd, Arsenal, Chelsea and an City have those spots booked already.

    We should finish mid-table again and a cup-run would not go amiss, but until the takeover goes through and we can get shut of Big Sam then it is all a bit crap at the moment.

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