Saturday sees us entertain Blackpool in a re run of the most exciting game seen at Goodison last season. To preview the 5th Round Clash we’ve teamed up with the excellent Tangerine Dreaming website for a Q&A to get an insight into Ian Holloway’s promotion contenders…
From the looks of the ‘goals for’ column in the Championship, Blackpool are still a team who like to entertain. How are things shaping up defensively?
Defensively we are ok. We are playing against a poorer standard of attacking football each week so the challenge is less difficult. We can still be picked apart by any diligent team. We still play a high defensive line, so direct passes from the middle third can catch us
out. The channel between right back and centre back is still worth probing to test our positioning and concentration. If anything our balance in the team has changed ever so slightly. At times last season we’d attack with 8 and defend with 2, but this season, more often that not we are 4 to 6 in favour of attack. It’s likely that we will line up with two young centre backs at Goodison and whilst they show great promise they are still learning to play with each other.
The formation has tended to move towards a 4-2-3-1 from the 4-3-3, but the four players in attack are ultra attacking and it really tends to
look more like a 4-2-4. When that happens we can dominate teams with relentless pressure, however, it can be easy for a gap of 10 to 15
yards to develop between midfield and attack and if a team can force the team to divide Blackpool can be dominated in the middle. The 4-3-3 still comes out and arguably the flatter shape in midfield lends itself to some of our better performances this season.
Last season the diagonal ball was one of your key attacking weapons. Has your offensive strategy changed in the Championship?
It still happens, but with less accuracy and frequency. Ian Holloway has openly admitted that he wants his team to pass more and more and manipulate the ball around the pitch. A team being alert to the long diagonal could set up well for second balls and reclaim possession quite easily. Offensively we are still as aggressive and the kitchen sink is fully installed at Bloomfield Road. Away from home we still seek to dominate possession, but we are more suited to counter given the pace we have in attack.
The gap between Charlie Adam’s teeth was a large one to fill. Who has supplemented this creative void?
Arguably no one has filled it and that has possibly given Blackpool a number of problems. Elliot Grandin had the ability on the ball to be devastating, but he has now returned to France for personal reasons. The loss of Adam has probably led to the move towards the more aggressive approach of playing four forwards in the 4-2-3-1. The balance of the team as well as the creativity hasn’t been dealt with. Gary Taylor-Fletcher is very clever on the ball and can create excellently around the box, but the signing of John Fleck may help to
fill that void. He has yet to string games together, but he has an excellent passing range, aggressive attitude and ability to get a shot off early. Should he start against Everton then Moyes will be well aware of his threat and would be wise to hassle him early on before he
can settle in to a rhythm.
People will be familiar with Kevin Phillips but less so with his namesake Matthew Phillips, who has bagged 3 hatricks already this season. What can we expect from him?
Let him turn and give him five or ten yards and he will hurt most defences. He can score and create from anywhere in the final third. He is still refining his game, but his strengths will see him reach the top echelons of the Premier League if he continues on his current trajectory. If he starts, he will line up in the wide left forward position and seek to cut inside to get his shot away. Very few players
will beat him for pace, he is strong and tricky also. However, get tight to him, stop him from turning and he has little in his skill set to be able to effectively turn and beat a man. Likely that he’ll lay the ball off and move in to space. However, his movement off the ball
is still developing and more often than not in those circumstances he can take himself out of the game.
Can we expect a full strength line up from Holloway or is the promotion push likely to compromise his selection?
Who knows what Holloway’s full strength line up looks like? He is so hard to call in respect to his selection. He loves a good bit of trial and error.
How has the Premiership cash cow positively impacted Blackpool?
Finances are virtually an impenetrable subject at Bloomfield Road. Karl Oyston assures fans that the future of the club is secure and there’s little doubt about that. The legacy elements mooted when we were in the Premier League i.e. new training ground have yet to materialise. However, our transfer policy continues to frustrate, even if it may be built on sound business logic. Quietly the money has been spent wisely up to now, securing new contracts for established players, bringing in quality like Barry Ferguson and Kevin Phillips. However, most importantly we are in a strong negotiating position should clubs come looking at our players as we don’t need to sell in order to get the cash. Hence the way the approaches from Bolton and Cardiff were handled in January when they made bids for Matthew
Given our recent upturn in form, how do you see Blackpool hurting us?
That’s a tough one. We can break very quickly so he may set up to counter at speed. If Baines advances Holloway’s use of wide forwards staying high may seek to exploit that. If Holloway starts with Barry Ferguson, Chris Basham and Ludo Sylvestre then we will likely try to control large parts of possession and perhaps we can pull Everton out of shape before trying to get Matt Phillips or LuaLua behind the defence.
Who would you say is Blackpool’s weak link that we could exploit?
Not a weak link per se, but applying pressure to Barry Ferguson would serve to hamper our passing rhythm as well as allowing you to win the ball high up the pitch. Again, LuaLua can be wasteful in possession, he’s very much a low percentage footballer. He can inspire, but making plans to pressure him and cut out his passing angles and Blackpool’s creativity will suffer.
Everton 4-2 Blackpool
Mr Bong is away for the weekend so will be unable to deliver any post match analysis. If your looking for some tactical deconstruction I’d recommend you check out the Tangerine Dreaming site for their unbiased astute thoughts on the cup tie.