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.

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About tangerinedreaming

I support Blackpool FC and I want to share my thoughts on the way our team plays. This blog is wholly inspired by Zonal Marking which has opened my eyes to football like never before. So if you read this, thanks for taking some time out to see what I think and if you feel bound to comment then please do so, but be kind and constructive with any criticism.
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6 Responses to Blackpool’s Core Problem

  1. Mike says:

    I notice as well that the spine of the team is somewhat lop-sided towards the left hand side. Did Blackpool become a bit unstuck down their right?

    • That’s a really good observation. As soon as I posted it up I looked at the diagram again and that struck me instantly. Blackpool have been defensively weak down their right hand side and this may well be a contributing factor and evidence of Blackpool lacking balance in their core. So your observation is excellent and something that might be worth exploring when Holloway builds up his team again.

  2. Ayre today says:

    You seem to have misunderstood the meaning of “spine”, which is awkward because you said it so often. A left back isn’t part of the spine.

    • I take your point. In hindsight using the word spine wasn’t perhaps the best term as people can interpret it in the literal and classical sense. I should have perhaps clarified that the term spine in this case was meant to illustrate the foundation players upon which Blackpool built their play. These players were the ones that supported the life in Blackpool’s play and when removed Blackpool’s play was stagnant, paralysed perhaps.

    • Mike says:

      The spine can be defined as the main source of strength, so there’s no problem including a full back. It still makes sense.

      • I totally agree Mike.

        I think the word can force people to take it in the literal goal to goal sense when in effect that might be true when you look at the players integral to a team’s strength in the case of Blackpool their source strength lay elsewhere.

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