Talking Tactics | Blackburn Rovers v Swansea City
Swansea's 2021-22 Championship season kicks off at Ewood Park on Saturday and with it, a new era for the Swans gets under way.
Following the departure of Steve Cooper last month, Russell Martin oversees his first competitive game in charge and, if his MK Dons side is anything to go by, supporters may be able to expect a return to a three-man defensive system fans witnessed for much of 2020/21.
Here, WhoScored.com preview Saturday's game at Blackburn as Martin aims to get off to a winning start following his appointment earlier this month.
What to expect from Blackburn
For the neutral, Blackburn were one of the more entertaining sides in the division last season. The scored the fifth-most goals (65) in the Championship, but also shipped 54, only four fewer than 21st-placed Derby County.
As one might expect, only Rotherham (nine) and Bristol City (10) kept fewer clean sheets than Rovers (11) as they attempted to strike the right balance between attack and defence on the way to a 15th place finish when they may feel they could and should have been considerably higher.
Rovers have yet to make any summer additions at the time of writing, while the likes of Barry Douglas, Lewis Holtby and Harvey Elliott have all moved on or returned to their parent clubs.
Each played key roles for Mowbray's side last season and, if he is to make his favoured 4-3-3 system work, he'll be looking to find the right personnel to help at both ends of the pitch.
As mentioned above, Blackburn were one of the highest scoring sides in the Championship last season and a key reason for that was the goalscoring form of Adam Armstrong. The 24-year-old hit the back of the net 28 times and laid on a further five assists for Rovers last season and his excellent form in front of goal has seen him linked with a number of Premier League sides.
With that in mind, Tony Mowbray may elect against using Armstrong from the get go against Swansea as rumours of his future at Ewood Park continue to circulate. In his stead may come Sam Gallagher, who while used largely from the left flank last season, could move infield if Armstrong does indeed miss out. Gallagher was Rovers' second highest league scorer last season, netting eight times, and he will look to take on the responsibility.
Whoever leads the line for the hosts, it'll be up to Ben Cabango to ensure neither man finds the Swansea net this weekend. The Wales international enjoyed a superb campaign under Cooper last term, consolidating his spot as a first-team regular for Swansea and yielding a better WhoScored.com rating (7.12) than any of his team-mates.
The departure of Marc Guehi, who joined Crystal Palace following the culmination of his loan spell at the Liberty Stadium, is a blow, but Cabango is a young man with a big future for the Swans. Only Watford (23) kept more clean sheets than Swansea (21) in the Championship last season and Martin can look to build his defence upon the solid foundations Cabango has shown he can provide.
Swansea have a solid record against Blackburn in the Championship. Indeed, following their respective returns to the Championship, the Swans are unbeaten in six meetings with Rovers, winning twice in that run.
That said, as well have Swansea have fared against Blackburn in recent league meetings between the pair, they have not tasted a victory of any sort at Ewood Park since a Division Three meeting in September 1971
Blackburn also won their final three home outings of 2020-21, underlining the task facing Martin and his side as he looks to get off to a winning start in his new job.