Part One – The Start Of Another Journey

After a brief hiatus Tangerine Dreaming returns with a two part look at Blackpool’s start to life back in the Championship. This part will look at the season up to now and place it in a context and part two (coming later in the week) will take a look at the performances on the pitch seeking to understand the reasons behind Blackpool’s inconsistent form.

When Blackpool fans were melting in the heat of Wembley stadium there was something of a mirage forming in front of their eyes. Twice coming from behind to secure a victory and their place in the Premier League seemed surreal. On reflection that season tends to be viewed with great fondness, particularly for that day at Wembley and an incredible performance against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground. However, when really breaking that season down it certainly wasn’t plain sailing and provides an interesting context that this season perhaps should be viewed.

Context & perspective

In reaching the play offs Blackpool racked up 70 points, finding the back of the net 74 times, which works out at a points per game average of 1.52 and a goals scored per game average of 1.61.

 

Three blips allowed

You can see on the chart above how Blackpool’s points accumulated over the course of the season. However, note how on three occasions the line went flat as they lost either back to back games or as in one instance, three consecutive games. This serves to demonstrate that over a season teams do have poor periods, but ultimately it’s how you recover from those upsets that determines how a team does by game 46. You can also see the step incline at the end of the season as the team pushed hard for the play-offs.

Heal & grow

Blackpool fans would no doubt like to see their team adjusting to life back in the Championship in a smooth fashion and riding high, it wasn’t like that last time around and with the loss of key players it’s not going to be like that this time around. Yes, the start Blackpool has had might strike the casual observer as odd, perhaps suggesting a hangover from the Premier League. Perhaps that is the case, but Blackpool are being rebuilt and that takes time. In his first season in charge it took Ian Holloway a considerable time to get his team functioning and this time around it may be the case again. Yes, an argument could be put together showing that he shouldn’t be in this position and that the club should have recruited in better time and funded a few more high profile signings. However, that wasn’t the case and Holloway has to play with what he has, adding loans where he can and hoping that he can land his main targets in the January transfer window.

Four changes

Just a quick glance at the teams from Ian Holloway’s first game in charge against QPR in August 2009 to the side who beat Cardiff in the final at Wembley shows how a side can evolve over the course of a Championship season.

 

The side that played Holloway's first game in charge is on the left, set against the play off winning team on the right.

That initial side (on the left above) had the nucleus of the team that ended up being promoted, however, four spots changed throughout the course of the season. Campbell came in to provide goals, Coleman with his attacking drive from full back, Ormerod with his intuitive running and instinctive timing and finally Matt Gilks who made the number one spot his own with his effective communication and shot stopping.

Completing the jigsaw

Blackpool’s last campaign saw the side develop over the course of the season and once the play off team was completed with the signing of Seamus Coleman from Everton the team went on a run over the last nine games of the season to secure their play off spot. Whilst this isn’t an ideal approach it gives hope as the season progresses and after every set back a quick glance across to the last time out will help to ease any worries. In fact before the play off side was completed Blackpool averaged 1.35 points per game and 1.43 goals per game. From the moment Coleman came in the points per game went up to 2.22 and goals per game jumped up to 2.33.

What a difference some loans make

Whilst this doesn’t offer a direct comparison it hopefully shows how a side evolves from beginning to end. This season is different and offers different challenges, but looking at the nucleus this time around Blackpool currently have around four spaces in their first eleven that are waiting to be taken. Those players are out there and may already be in the squad. It’s up to Holloway to find them and blend them; if he does it in a timely manner then Blackpool will be looking up. If not, then he may require a little more patience from the terraces as he looks to the following season for his new team to come to fruition.

Finally, when looking at the first 14 games of this season against the last season in the Championship Blackpool really aren’t much worse off. Last time out they had 23 points on the board, scoring 19 goals. This time out (bolstered by a 5-0 rout of Bristol City) they’ve scored one more goal (20) but have 4 less points.

When is a bad start not a bad start?

Marathon, not a sprint

Monitoring this season against that last Championship season may well be the best tonic for Blackpool supporters as well as the understanding that teams do evolve in this league. The length of season allows for mishaps and loss of form and the availability of loans allow teams to flex their personnel almost on a monthly basis should they wish. The comparisons made here aren’t flawless, but offer some guide, however, it’s always important to be mindful of what happened last season. Nottingham Forest grabbed sixth place with a total of 75 points, so Blackpool may well have to go further than last time they were here in order to get in to the play offs.

Part two of this analysis can be found here – Part Two – The Shape Of Another Journey

A new season, a new home for Tangerine Dreaming…..

Hello everyone and welcome to the new home of Tangerine Dreaming.

You should notice right away that this new site looks different from the old one, however it’ll contain the very same kind of content.

Expect analysis of Blackpool’s forthcoming campaign back in the Championship and the occasional article speculating about where they may go in the future or unpicking trends or aspects of players performances as the season builds to its climax next May.

Feel free to browse the site if you like and spread the word if you like what you see. You can access all the key content up at the top, ordered in to categories that should make sense. All last seasons posts are here should you wish to reflect on what has past.

Thanks to everyone which has supported the blog since it started last October and hopefully you’ll enjoy what’s to come. If you’re wondering what to expect before the season starts then they will be a couple of articles to set the scene for the new season as well the occasional piece cropping up on other sites.

I also want to thank Michael Kinlan for spending many hours working to create this new site. Using his powers of patience as well as creativity trying to bring to together the vague thoughts I had in to a coherent whole. If you want to contact Michael then you can follow him on Twitter here – @mickkinlan.

Also, if you’re interested in my off site thoughts about Blackpool FC, football and other things then you can always follow me on Twitter or on Facebook. You can use the icons to the right to track me down on those there things.

For now I hope you enjoy this new place and please drop me line below if you have any comments or feedback as it would be good to hear from you.

Keep dreaming,

John.

Blackpool’s Core Problem

The Blackpool Five

Good and great football teams have a core set of players who hold the team structure together, it is often referred to as the spine of the team. Throughout their promotion season from the Championship Blackpool had a spine of players who pulled together to make Blackpool a fantastic attacking team and gave them great consistency in the run in which saw them come from nowhere to secure promotion.

When the Premier League season kicked off that spine still remained, however, the supporting figures were either not up to standard, inconsistent, ageing or too new to Ian Holloway’s methods to provide strength in depth. As the season progressed players integrated in to the side and some of the newer players became ‘first choice’ options. However, none of these players served to be a genuine replacement when any of the spine missed games. Did that really matter? Did losing key players have any impact on Blackpool’s results?

Spinal matters

Ian Evatt, Stephen Crainey, David Vaughan, Charlie Adam and DJ Campbell could be defined as being the spine of the Blackpool side. When these five players lined up for Blackpool the whole team appeared to play with much more verve, vigor and assurance. However, what was the record for the games when these players lined up against those matches when they didn’t?

With all the spine present Blackpool gained 27 of their 39 points in 21 games at a rate of 1.29 points per game which should they have stayed together in the side and completed all 38 games, Blackpool would have racked up 49 points. They won 33% of the games they lined up in.

In the other 17 games when that spine was removed either in whole or in part, Blackpool racked up 12 points at a rate of 0.71 points per game which is half a point down on the games when the spine of the team was in place. Blackpool won only 18% of these games.

Stockpiles

This is a crucial set of facts when you consider Blackpool’s fate. They clearly didn’t have either the quality of back up players or the ability or time to integrate them in to the side with restricted playing opportunities or a planned approach to squad rotation. Injuries played a large part in disrupting the spine of the team as well as suspensions. David Vaughan picked up hip injury that kept him out of three games back to back and Stephen Crainey suffered with an ankle ligament injury that kept him out for six games. Then DJ Campbell got sent off against Wolves and missed three matches whilst Charlie Adam’s persistent bookings meant he missed three matches through suspension. What is really important to note is that of that spine it is very likely that on the opening day of the new season Blackpool will only have Ian Evatt left.

What can Blackpool and other teams learn from this experience?

Should Blackpool ever get back to the Premier League then it will be because they again have a solid spine, but they will need to ensure that their spine isn’t compromised and spend time considering how that spine will be best replaced in the case of injury and suspension. Blackpool will hope to recruit potential peripheral players to serve as shadows or to recruit first team players in other positions with the calibre to flex their field position and game approach.

With the break up of the spine as Blackpool move in to the Championship then the true perspective of the task ahead of Holloway is huge, his inherited squad was never completed and developed to his satisfaction. It’s no exaggeration to say that he has to build from the ground up again. To think that this might take two years is a realistic prospect given the club’s approach to recruitment. However, should it take two years then surely prior to any eventual promotion, Ian Holloway will have plans in place to thoroughly develop his squad further to cope with the rigors of a full season in the Premier League.

[twitter-follow screen_name=’Tanger_Dreaming’]

Ten ways to stay in the Barclays Premier League – The Final Analysis

On the 1st December 2010 this blog took a look at ten aspects of Blackpool’s season up to that point that were reasons behind their success. It made the assertion that should these ten aspects be sustained over the course of the season then Blackpool would stay in the Barclays Premier League. Now the season has come to an end it’s time to pick through that list and see how many stayed the course and how many fell by the wayside.

Task list

First things first, lets list the ten aspects from the original article.

Blackpool must;

  1. Keep on attacking teams
  2. Keep faith with a 4-3-3 structure
  3. Keep meeting teams who pay no regard to Blackpool’s style of football
  4. Keep doing the defensive basics
  5. Keep passing the ball
  6. Keep the long diagonal pass as a part of their game plan
  7. Keep the points ticking over
  8. Keep supplying DJ Campbell close to goal
  9. Keep alert at all times

As you’ll notice,  there are only nine listed above. That is because two of the points from the first article were of the same nature so they’ve been condensed in to point three to avoid confusion. Perhaps, that should have been noted at the time and the post renamed ‘Nine steps to safety’. Actually, that sounds much better now.

Attacking matters

The original article picked up on the fact that Blackpool had little problem in scoring goals and at the rate they were scoring then they’d have scored 58 times by the end of the season. In fact Blackpool did keep their goals flowing and were widely lauded for their commitment to attack. Ian Holloway intended to attack the Premier League and attack he did. Blackpool ended up scoring 55 goals and they were the 8th highest scorers in the whole league and no team has scored as many goals and been relegated in the Premier League era.

Four, Three, Three

Ever since Ian Holloway has taken over the management of Blackpool football club he has advocated a 4-3-3 and he wants his teams at all levels to play the same formation. This season that formation consistently brought the best out of his players and caused all kinds of problems for many teams, especially those set up in a flat 4-4-2. From memory only two teams set up in a 4-4-2 and beat Blackpool (Fulham and Chelsea). A pre-season injury to Keith Southern meant that the 4-3-3 morphed in to a 4-2-3-1 or 4-2-1-3 and it worked well initially. It will be interesting to see how Swansea set up in the Premier League, they’ll bring a similar structure (applied differently), but will still cause trouble against any team in a standard 4-4-2.

Homework

Not many children ever appear to enjoy their homework and the panel of the Sunday Supplement on Sky Sports appear to take a similarly neglectful approach to their research of football that tends to be outside of their myopic scope. However, this was also the case for the best part of half a Premier League season as most managers who faced off against Blackpool appeared to make no concession and make clear tactical plans to cope with Blackpool. All season it appeared that only Alex McLeish made clear changes to his team structure to counter Blackpool with his 4-1-2-1-2 diamond formation.

Teams tended to favour their regular set ups against Blackpool for the most part and some suffered as a result. Blackpool’s barren run of form was partly explained by other factors, but on occasion some managers recognised that to deny time and space to Charlie Adam would stifle Blackpool and rightly so it had an effect. Another aspect that some managers finally picked up on was to press Blackpool’s back line and close down the keeper to stop them playing out from the back. This and the plan to shackle Adam seemed to be the only major concessions teams made to Blackpool all season, content to play their own game and let Blackpool play their and see who wins. This approach consistently played in to the hands of Blackpool, but as the season wore on and wins became less frequent when the concessions some teams were making combined with the errors Blackpool were making caused a lot of the poor results.

Breaking the line

It’s not a secret that Blackpool were poor defensively and the original post was made after a couple of steady defensive performances and stressed that they needed to become more and more frequent for Blackpool to stay up. In the end poor defensive shape, poor covering, poor communications, poor concentration and poor judgement cost Blackpool very dear. Blackpool conceded 78 goals at a rate of 2.05 goals per game. At the time of the original post that ratio was 1.93 and in the game since then it rose to 2.13. You can see below how around the time of the last article their goals conceded per game started to improve before picking up again at the crucial back end of the season.

Taking the goals that Blackpool conceded and averaging them out on a per game basis.

Teams defend as a unit and Holloway stressed that his defence starts with his forwards, whilst this is true, the defensive basics of clearing lines safely, generally rested with the back five and a couple of midfielders. If you look at the % of successful clearances this season you can see that on average Blackpool cleared their lines successfully 61% of the time. However, the number of critical mistakes made in games never seemed to die and hung around till the end of the season. Through a quick count up (via whoscored.com) Blackpool made a total of 14 errors leading to goals being scored (Richard Kingson was the player who made the most, 3).

Tick-tock

As stated many times on the blog this season Holloway sees short passing as the foundation for Blackpool’s game, he aspires for tiki-taka style passing and at the time of the original post Blackpool were performing excellent with balls to feet with a pass completion of 77%. However, a post earlier this year noted that their passing was dropping off as teams pressed better and Blackpool became a little direct at times especially from the back and through the evaporation of the quickly taken short freekick. At season end Blackpool’s pass completion stood at 76% and if you segment the season up in to arbitrary halves then for the first half of the season Blackpool were stood at 78% and the second half at 74%.

Die-agonal

Posts on this blog and over on Up the ‘Pool have talked about the way that Blackpool have utilised the long diagonal from back to front to stretch the play and add variety. However, as the season progressed the pass did tend to become easier to read and it’s hard to pin point a goal being scored as a result, however, that’s not to say that it ceased to become useful. Only a detailed analysis would answer questions around this.

Grinding to a halt

A simple graph will confirm that Blackpool failed in keeping the points ticking over as you can see below.

The blank space between the tangerine lines got wider as the season progressed.

Whilst it is a by-product of the team performance, it is crucial for any team to consistently pick up points throughout the season. Blackpool’s 1 win in a 16 game run hindered the steady accumulation of points and such runs breed poor habits and drain confidence and Blackpool found it hard to shrug off. As mentioned earlier about the defence, mistakes were common, team selection frustrated by injury and other things added up to test Blackpool week in week out, but they struggled to break free from the cycle till it was arguably too late given the strong end to the season that both Wolves and Wigan had.

Poached

A study of DJ Campbell’s goals in the Championship showed that he thrived on balls played between the goal line and penalty spot and the assertion was made this season that should Blackpool keep supplying the ball to him in that range then he’d keep on scoring goals all season. At the time of the original article he was on schedule to hit 8 goals for the season. In fact he made some improvements in his game, notably in his movement in dropping deep to receive the ball and his ball control did steadily improve, although he still has a tendency to misjudge his control especially if the ball bounces just in front of him. The ball tends to rise up on his first touch leaving the ball a couple of feet off the ground and fair game for any defender. However, his strength on the ball has improved as has his decision-making as to when to play a flick or hold on to the ball. DJ Campbell ended the season with 13 goals in what was an excellent season for the striker.

Capitulation

Back in December Blackpool had a developed a habit of conceding late on in the game, at that point 9 goals had been scored against them in the last 15 minutes of game which equated to 31% of the total goals conceded. As the season progressed, this never went away and this more than anything has caused Blackpool the biggest problems. By the season end Blackpool had conceded 20 goals in the last 15 minutes equating to 25%.

Slipping away late on. Again and again.

Mission: Failed

This article served to follow up something written some months ago and served merely to round that post off so that it could be established if the tasks ahead of Blackpool had been carried out successfully. Five out of the nine could be deemed as a success, whilst four failures and it is those four that proved most critical. However, the lines between staying up and going down were very fine in the end, Blackpool didn’t need to defend like warriors game after game or have the mental resilience to see out every game from a winning position. All they really needed was one more minute of concentration, one less misplaced clearance and they may well have stayed up. However, what Blackpool showed more than anything is that they were a team of extremes, great going forward, woeful in defence and should they ever get to this level again, then striking a greater balance will serve them better.

[twitter-follow screen_name=’Tanger_Dreaming’]

Tangerine Dreaming Awards – 2010/11

Just brilliant!

After an amazing season in the Premier League it’s now time to start reflecting on a superb experience. First up are the awards picking out a few points from the season. The awards are entirely subjective and not formed through consultation and aren’t necessarily backed up with facts. However, (where applicable) further end of season articles will serve to cover the whys, wherefores and the greater detail etc.

TD  Blackpool player of the season

  1. David Vaughan
  2. Stephen Crainey
  3. Ian Evatt
The ‘Spotter’s Badge’ for doing your homework

Alex McLeish employed a restrictive diamond formation both home and away against Blackpool and the upshot was the the centre space was virtually eliminated and Blackpool were too slow to react to find space elsewhere
. McLeish was the first manager to clearly spend time thinking about playing Blackpool and it paid off reducing Ian Holloway’s men to two stale performances.
 

Reactionary tactical move of the year by an opposition manager

Mick McCarthy win this one in moving Michael Mancienne to right back to counter the threat of Luke Varney from Blackpool’s long diagonal balls. McCarthy sent his team out at Bloomfield Road with Kevin Foley at right back and Michael Mancienne in a holding midfield role. Blackpool enjoyed early success from that route and McCarthy was quick to change and it was a change that sparked a chain reaction, leading to the game being a close encounter as the match progressed.

Last throw of the dice award for manager who didn’t really know what to do

Owen Coyle spent the first half of the game against Blackpool at the Reebok seeing his 4-4-2 structure being exposed time after time. He didn’t seem to recognise what was going on until the second half when he decided to send on Martin Petrov, Rodrigo Moreno and Ivan Klasnic. Their passing as a team became better and eventually secured a draw, however, it was really ‘the kitchen sink’ treatment not by design, more through sheer panic. Still, it worked.

Best visiting player to Bloomfield Road

  1. Ryan Giggs – His speed and movement seemed to spark Manchester United in to life when the game was threatening to get away from them. Incisive, quick runs and thoughtful passing saw Blackpool opened up time after time.
  2. David Silva – his technical abilities are supreme, but the fact he ghosted around Bloomfield was a sight to behold. Space exists for Silva to fill. Enough said.
  3. Luka Modric – Just a brilliant footballer and didn’t deserve to be on the losing side at all at Bloomfield Road. Short, consistent passing all game long combined with a sense of when to make a break forward and get beyond the defensive line.

Hypnotic Passing Award

Luka Modric – see above. It was a privilege and pleasure to witness him pass the ball over 180 minutes this season.

The ‘surprised they were not relegated’ award

Bolton’s season was plastered together by two players. A brave statement which won’t be backed up here, but Stuart Holden’s energy held their flat midfield together at times, when he got injured Daniel Sturridge’s opportunism and desire to prove a point picked up some valuable points to keep them afloat.

Inexplicable tactical decision

At 3-2 up away against a good Premier League team may well require some tactical tweaks to contain, or you could try and keep the status quo. Ian Holloway chose to do something that went against his philosophy against Everton and did something that wasn’t thought through or drilled in training. He made two defensive substitutions, turning Blackpool in to a 5-4-1 and chaos ensued with Blackpool losing the match 5-3. 

Stroke of genius award for innovation

Ian Holloway gets this to make up for the previous one. His decision to go to a 3-5-2 when 3-0 down to Wigan led to a much flatter midfield three and convinced him that he had to return to his midfield set up that guided them through the Championship.

‘The Turnaround’ award for team better than their previous attempt at playing Blackpool

When Blackpool romped home 4-0 at the DW Stadium earlier in the season Wigan looked disjointed and had their fragile confidence shattered by poor goalkeeping from Chris Kirkland. Oh, and they didn’t have Charles N’Zogbia. Martinez made a great decision in dropping Kirkland soon after and the re-integration of N’Zogbia, gave them a direct goal threat as well as unpredictability in the final third. When Wigan (complete with the Frenchman and Ali Al-Habsi in goal) came to Bloomfield Road in April they were a different side, dictated the game and looked like a team focused on their game plan and their greater plan of staying in the Premier League.

Award for taking men on with considerable ease

Opposition players are just obstacles for Carlos Tevez to get around. In doing so against Blackpool he just kept taking men out of the game making it very hard to defend against a very strong team.

The Red Mist award for taking man and ball

Gonzalo Jara – When you’ve just seen your side reduced to ten men with a debatable decision, the last thing you should do is take man and ball when the game is stuck in the corner and no danger is apparent. Not Jara, he acted first, thought last and then had a shower.

Pass of the season

Charlie Adam’s first time passing can sometimes be played out of the vision of some Blackpool players. Adam is likely to pass at any moment, over any range and at any pace. Adam’s first time pass away to West Brom was perfectly executed and showed vision and inspiration that becomes hard to defend against but easy to admire.

Blackpool goal of the season

  1. DJ Campbell v Spurs – This goal was a classic counter attack, fast running, clever touches, turning a defence on it’s heels and a composed finish by Campbell all combined with a little good fortune.
  2. Luke Varney v Wolves – Superbly struck volley stunning Wolves and most spectators at Bloomfield.
  3. Charlie Adam v Blackburn – At 1-0 up, Adam clipped a perfect free-kick out of the reach of Paul Robinson to make it 2-0 at Ewood Park.

Opposition goal of the season

David Silva’s turn and shot at Bloomfield Road was a sight to behold. Crafty, cunning, balanced and one of those goals that even the Blackpool players probably wanted to applaud.

Moving on

Those were a few awards to remember just a small collection of memories of Blackpool’s season in the Premier League. Check back here later in the week for a few posts looking back at the season that was.

[twitter-follow screen_name=’Tanger_Dreaming’]