Even after an hour of torrential rain that prompted Tony Mowbray to abandon the tactical game plan he had taken days to come up with, there are still plenty of elements in the game of Blackburn Rovers that you can expect to see every week.
Unity, effort, pace of work, determination. Over the past few weeks we’ve seen Rovers combine some of these elements with technical skill, precision and clinic, contributing to a remarkable six-game winning streak.
On a day when lost passes were plentiful, the quality in the missing final third, and the condition of the pitch – despite the monumental efforts of the field staff – the Rovers dug deep and reminded us that their cohesive characteristics are enough to claim a result, even against one side of the top six.
Yes, those might not be the three points we’ve all been desperate for, but make no mistake, this Huddersfield Town side have a place in the play-off on merit. They haven’t lost since late November, had won all three of their previous matches and are a much more resilient unit than the weakened set of players who were so frequently exposed by Carlos Coberban’s tactical naivety last season.
The Spaniard most certainly learned from the mistakes of his first managerial campaign and while not present on the sideline at Ewood Park, the Terriers executed his plan in great detail, putting the men behind the ball. to absorb the pressure of the Rovers before overloading when their mobile attackers had the chance to break through.
Here are two camps that have built stable bases with defensive solidity while possessing attack weapons that can inflict damage on opponents. Both were breathtaking opportunity makers, both made up of a talented ball player who can create chances at will – I’m referring to Joe Rothwell and Lewis O’Brien, in this case.
Had the surface been in better shape, the Rovers might have been able to capitalize on their abundance of early chances and maybe even keep their intensity high for longer. Pitches like Sunday can be draining on the legs, as Harry Pickering’s hamstring injury demonstrated.
While we can choose the elements of the toss, analyze whether Reda Khadra should have done better when slipped one-on-one by John Buckley or strongly criticize the horrid standard of arbitration presented by Keith Stroud and his fellow oblivious, the fact of the matter is that the Rovers are now nine undefeated and in auto promotion spots.
Whichever stat you want to delve into – among which there are many encouraging numbers right now – the one that stands out the most for me is the performance of Mowbray’s squad in front of their home support.
The Rovers finished the year with the division’s best home record and, Fulham’s aberration aside, they have been outstanding at Ewood this season.
In 14 games, the Rovers have netted 30 points, winning nine of their home games and losing only to West Brom and Fulham, who they compete with at the top of the standings.
No team has scored more at home with Mowbray’s side scoring 30 goals – or 2.14 goals per game – which is all the more impressive considering Fulham, who ranks second in goals scored at home and have expensive firepower at their disposal. provision, have scored 24. The Rovers have scored more goals in their last five home games than Barnsley has scored at home all season.
Opta statisticians see the Rovers surpass their xG by 6.6 goals, a testament to the quality of the chances created and the prolific finish, but it should be noted that only Fulham has a better xG at home than the men of Mowbray.
Yes, the Rovers may have the second column of the worst goals conceded in the home tables – only Cardiff City have conceded more – but it should be noted that the loss to Marco Silva’s men accounts for 41% of the goals the Rovers have scored. left at home. Given the almighty response since that catastrophic night, I imagine many of us are now ready to accept the negative impact Aleksandar Mitrovic & Co has had on our goals-conceded column.
For further reference to the Rovers’ impressive defensive improvement, particularly at home, six of their ten clean sheets this campaign have been recorded at Ewood, exceeding their home clean sheet total of four in the previous campaign.
And, just to add how impressive the Rovers have been in their own backyard this campaign, they have already matched the number of home wins they racked up in the previous campaign. They are a little off their best home winning tally under Mowbray in the Championship.
In 2017/18 and 2000/01, two occasions in which the Rovers were promoted, they had 15 home wins. They still have a way to go to equal the 17 home wins for Kenny Dalglish’s side in the 1994/95 campaign. If you were to try to calculate how many home wins the Rovers could get by the end of the campaign, using the data, it’s estimated they would earn 14.
The result of their magnificent home form is, whatever your take on pricing, a significant increase in ticket sales and a Blackburn End that has been jam-packed in the Rovers’ last two home league games. Ewood is a place of unison, a large contingent of fans coming together to support a team that gives their all on the pitch.
While we’re on the subject of home form, I just wanted to briefly touch on the six-game winning streak leading up to the Huddersfield draw and how that turned out to be a record that denotes success in years past.
It’s not without precedent, but it’s a run of form which in Rovers history has often resulted in a top-six finish at the end of the campaign.
In 2017/18, Rovers recorded six straight league wins as Mowbray’s men reached promotion to Ligue 1.
One would have to go back to the turn of the century to find another period in which Rovers won six consecutive league games as Graeme Souness’ side regained their place in the Premier League, finishing second to Fulham. In 1984/85, under Bobby Saxton, the Rovers finished 5th in the Second Division after winning six straight games earlier in the campaign.
In 1980, Howard Kendall’s side missed a promotion due to a goal difference when they finished 4th, despite a six-game winning streak at the start of the year.
From October to December 1994, the Rovers outperformed six under Kenny Dalglish and secured seven straight league wins as they made their way to the Premier League title. The year before, they had also won seven straight matches, before missing out on first place against Manchester United by eight points.
In 1988, Don Mackay’s Rovers embarked on a seven-game winning streak finishing 5th, securing a final play-off place before being beaten by Chelsea.
If history is to tell us anything, Rovers winning six or more league games in a row is a positive omen for what could come this season.
Not that any of us are getting carried away. Without wanting to sound cliché, let’s take one game at a time and see what January brings.
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