Blackburn Rovers begin the 2021/22 campaign next week as they take on Swansea City at Ewood Park.
For Tony Mowbray, he’s looking for a significant improvement on Rovers’ 15th placed finish last season, which felt an underachievement given Adam Armstrong’s goals and the fact that, on paper, the squad looked like it would be competing for play-off football.
So, focus is now on the upcoming campaign after a tough pre-season schedule. There’s been very little business done in terms of strengthening Blackburn’s squad, whilst results have been up and down in friendly fixtures.
Swansea, meanwhile, are embarking on life under Russell Martin following his appointment over the weekend, with the Welsh outfit offered little time to adapt to a new regime ahead of facing Blackburn.
As our focus drifts onto the Championship season’s big kick-off this weekend, we’ve identified two team dilemmas Mowbray is facing…
Daniel Ayala fitness
Ayala’s first season as Blackburn player was plagued by injuries and it’s going to be important that Mowbray manages his minutes carefully heading into the new season.
We’ve seen shades of that over the course of pre-season, with the centre-back missing the last two friendlies due to Mowbray being cautious over his injury issues.
There’s little denying that Ayala in the side makes Blackburn stronger and, as they look for a solid start to the season, Mowbray will be minded to throw him in against Swansea.
However, you are then running the risk of aggravating any injury issues if the centre-back isn’t quite ready for action.
It’s something for Mowbray to consider.
A three man defence
4-3-3 was Blackburn’s go-to formation last year in the Championship when they lost key playmaker, Bradley Dack to injury.
However, at times this pre-season we’ve seen Blackburn’s boss favour a three-man defensive unit and wing-backs.
Darragh Lenihan has played alongside Hayden Carter and Tyler Magloire when Blackburn have leaned on the latter system, with Mowbray’s decision surely going to be swayed by the aforementioned call regarding Ayala.
If he’s fit, we could see a flat back four and 4-3-3. However, if he doesn’t risk Ayala, we may see Mowbray go with a three-man unit with Lenihan central to that.