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Will Ian Holloway bring Blackpool back to the Premier League?

With the start of the Championship just over two weeks away, many sides are being touted for promotion to the top flight. One side barely mentioned in the shake up for promotion so far is Blackpool. Wind back a few months and they were the darlings of...

With the start of the Championship just over two weeks away, many sides are being touted for promotion to the top flight. One side barely mentioned in the shake up for promotion so far is Blackpool.

Wind back a few months and they were the darlings of the Premier League with their attacking brand of football, defying the trend of conservatism set up by past promoted sides. However, defeat on a dramatic final day lead to their relegation as was expected at the beginning of the season.

Their manager, Ian Holloway is known for his entertaining press conferences but don’t be fooled: he knows what he’s doing. When he was out of a job, he went across Europe learning all about various approaches to the game from different coaches.

As a result, tactically, Ian Holloway understands the game. One of the reasons why Blackpool flourished was because of their 4-3-3 formation catching sides off guard. The majority of the Premier League plays 4-4-2. The former, when it is executed well, tends to work well against the latter. Most sides in the Premier League are not used to facing this formation and usually when they do; it is against Chelsea, who aren’t the easiest side to combat at the best of times.

The problem is that for 4-3-3 to beat 4-4-2 consistently, a strong defence is needed, so that when it’s not going your way, 1-0 wins can be ground out. This is where Blackpool fell well short. They shipped an astronomical 78 goals last season, over two per game.

Holloway’s side relied largely on teamwork  (which also lent itself to 4-3-3). Two key components of that team, David Vaughan and Charlie Adam, have opted to stay in the Premier League with Sunderland and Liverpool respectively. With DJ Campbell looking likely to move onto pastures new, Ollie certainly has rebuilding job on his hands.

He’s made some astute signings so far. Barry Ferguson and Kevin Phillips will certainly bring a lot to Holloway’s side. Ferguson has a great range of passing to help fill the gap left by Charlie Adam and David Vaughn.  Kevin Phillips has 60 goals for his previous three seasons in the Championship He will be 36 when the season begins but he should take encouragement from other players his age still plying their trade at a high level.

Other less high profile arrivals include Matt Hill from Barnsley, Liverpool’s Gerardo Bruna and Bojan Djordjic of Videoton. None of these players are exactly household names but they know under the stewardship of Holloway, they could become the next Charlie Adam or David Vaughan. Djordjic, a former Manchester United trainee, certainly has a point to prove in English football.

Whether Holloway will persist with the 433 formation is unclear. 442 is still the way to go for the majority of sides in English football, so assuming Blackpool can practice what they preach, another season of performing above expectations lies ahead.

The most important thing is that the players know the ins and outs of the system they are playing. If a team can’t execute the formation well, you won’t get very far.

Ian Holloway has achieved much with Blackpool. Promotion this season might be a bridge too far, depending on how quickly he can remould his side together. If Holloway does succeed in getting promotion, exceeding expectations for a third consecutive season, bigger clubs will come knocking on his door.

Nevertheless, the Tangerines are dark horses for promotion this year.
The Tangerine Army visiting Stamford Bridge last season.



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