Football FanCast columnist Phil Wright reflects on the changing ways of the Premier League and the effect it is having on his beloved Rovers.
Following Rovers’ 5-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge on Saturday and with a trip to Old Trafford coming up, the question about the competitiveness of the Premier League comes up.
Blackburn have already been comprehensively outclassed by Arsenal and Chelsea this season and continue their nightmare October schedule with a game against Manchester United on Saturday.
There is almost no hope of picking anything up at Old Trafford. Indeed, Rovers haven’t picked up a point against a top four side since April 2007. This situation isn’t exclusive to Blackburn as many teams in the Premier League go into these games hoping for a draw, but fully expecting to be defeated. In many cases it’s a task of limiting the damage rather than competing for points.
In Blackburn’s case, following this seasons’ 6-2 and 5-0 defeats to Arsenal and Chelsea respectively it’s arguable that they should not even be in the same league as the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United.
With his depleted squad, the ever pragmatic Allardyce targeted specific games for points last year in order to stave off relegation. He virtually wrote off games against any of the ‘big four’ and adjusted the starting XI accordingly. It was a masterful management of limited resources, but a sad advert for the state of the Premier League. Sadly, despite improving his squad, it appears he has felt the need to carry this approach over to this season.
For many teams at Blackburn’s level the primary goal of the season is survival in the Premiership. It’s arguable that this attitude has filtered down to the playing staff as some of Rovers’ recent performances against the ‘big four’ raise the issue of whether the players try as hard as in these games compared to those against the rest of the league. The gulf in class is so great that no amount of honest endeavour is going to bridge it.
The only way for teams such as Blackburn to compete is, for the want of a better term, to kick the other team off the park. However, this ‘ultra competitiveness’ has been curbed by the likes of Mourinho, Wenger and Ferguson influencing the referee through manipulation of the press. I’ve lost count of the amount of times Arsene Wenger has spoken about how rough a team Blackburn are in the week preceding a game against the blue and whites. As a result the referees are quicker than usual to use their whistles, neutralising any physical advantage Blackburn may have had.
Sadly with the advent of the Champions League and the riches it provides, football has come down to this. The Premier League has not been a level playing field for more than a decade now with the vast majority of teams there to make up the numbers such is the strength in depth of the ‘big four’. This domination is highlighted by a succession of wealthy foreign investors failing to break into the top four despite throwing substantial funds behind their newly acquired play thing.
As a fan of one of the ‘also-rans’, with every season a battle for survival football is becomingly increasingly hard to enjoy.