Club Focus – Blackburn Rovers – Ewood fortress

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Blackburn Rovers ended their home campaign on an incredible high, emerging victorious over the mighty Arsenal. Arsene Wenger’s side simply failed to cope with Rovers’ ability to stand their own ground, something that the Frenchman has been unhappy about for many years now. However, Wenger can have no excuses for his side’s poor physical presence these days and their obsession with neat football has paid no dividends for five trophy-less years. On the other hand, Sam Allardyce’s team produced a successful display of football – not 100% beautiful Barcelona style stuff, but nonetheless gained them three points against a top-four side. In all honesty, this performance was typical of Blackburn’s amazing exploits at home this season.

For many games at Ewood Park this year, Blackburn have gone behind to a first-half goal. It wasn’t surprising, then, to see Robin van Persie score against the home team after just 13 minutes. But on quite a few occasions this season Blackburn have come back from conceding early on, most notably against fierce local rivals Burnley. This was a similar situation, as local boy David Dunn’s strike just before the break ensured Rovers went in level at half-time. Towering centre-back Chris Samba then sealed the victory with a 68th minute header. Dunn had an excellent game, just as he has had a brilliant season and Samba’s goal came as no surprise – the defender consistently chips in with the odd goal or two every few months.

Blackburn’s record at Ewood Park has made the ground nothing short of a fortress. Rovers have lost just three games on home soil this season, whilst keeping all of the traditional top four at bay. Indeed, Blackburn have drawn against Europa League semi-finalists Liverpool, title-chasing Manchester United and Chelsea, as well as beating Arsenal this week. Big Sam’s side must be given the credit they duly deserve for such an excellent showing at home this season – something which has seen them climb into the top half of the table at the end of this bank holiday weekend. The half-time break saw Rovers’ defensive midfielder Steven N’Zonzi being presented with the annual Player of the Season award. The young Frenchman has been an ever-present in the side this season, missing out only on the Arsenal game so far. N’Zonzi’s sensational strike against Everton a couple of weeks ago has typified his strong debut season – with bigger clubs now taking a look at the man who cost Rovers less than £1m last summer. Meanwhile, young Swede Martin Olsson was awarded the goal of the season, for his stunning overhead kick against Aston Villa in the Carling Cup semi-final. Olsson is another youngster who has had his fair share of exposure in the Blackburn starting line-up this season and surely has many good years ahead of him.

Blackburn can now look ahead to their final game of this season against Aston Villa next week, where a win would guarantee them a top-10 finish. Such an end to the campaign would be quite amazing for a team who lack the financial clout of many others, however Big Sam must be congratulated on his bargain buys and great management in what has been a successful season for the Blues.


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