When relegation-threatened Blackburn Rovers began the 2011-2012 Premier League season with three consecutive defeats, much-maligned manager Steve Kean asked bemused supporters to judge the Lancashire outfit after the summer transfer window. The ever-optimistic Scotsman spent big on deadline day in August, drafting in highly-rated defender Scott Dann, Nigerian striker Yakubu and rookie forward Jordan Slew in the closing hours of that frantic window. Results immediately improved, albeit briefly, as Rovers took a point from Craven Cottage, before recording an impressive 4-3 win over Arsenal at Ewood Park.
That the former first-team coach did not ask fans to judge his team after deadline day in the recent January transfer window tells its own story. Despite keeping his so-called stars, Kean has clearly been unable to attract the players he would have liked to bring in. The 44-year-old initially stated that he wanted players who could ‘hit the ground running’. He ended up with a young French striker – Anthony Modeste – who had supposedly lost his way and has come to Ewood Park on a loan deal in order to reignite his career, an unknown quantity in winger Marcus Olsson and Queens Park Rangers’ former second-choice right-back Bradley Orr. Meanwhile, fellow strugglers QPR have signed experienced, proven players.
Given that owners Venky’s have tried to get away with trimming the wage bill – by showing Keith Andrews, Jason Roberts and Ryan Nelsen the door – and handing Kean an extremely limited budget, it is rather unsurprising that Rovers have lost two games on the bounce since the January window came to a close. This does not necessarily mean that Modeste, Olsson and Orr will all flop at Ewood Park, indeed the former has looked decent in the last couple of games. However, one senses that Kean was expecting more experienced players to fire Rovers up the table.
The former Premier League champions were humiliated at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, as they were thumped 7-1 by an Arsenal side who were superb from the very first minute. The Gunners continuously sliced through the Rovers defence like a knife through hot butter. Some have suggested that the presence of influential skipper Chris Samba would have helped keep the score down, but the Congolese giant was bizarrely left out of the squad altogether once again. Kean has not been keen on picking the moody defender since he handed in a transfer request last month.
Where next for Rovers? An embarrassing 7-1 defeat at Old Trafford last season was reportedly one of the reasons why Sam Allardyce was sacked by Venky’s. Would they consider making a similar decision following this result? It seems unlikely. If Kean does survive, then his next test will be to try and mastermind a victory over QPR at Ewood Park this Saturday, in a fixture that could highlight the significance of adding quality to a struggling team in January. Fortunately for Rovers, Yakubu will be back for the crunch clash. But will Samba?
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Blackburn