Blackburn Rovers 0-1 Everton, 27 August 2011
Mikel Arteta’s last gasp goal secured all three points for Everton at Ewood Park this weekend. That this came from the spot after Blackburn Rovers had failed to convert two penalties of their own earlier in the afternoon merely added insult to injury.
Injury is a word Blackburn will be hoping doesn’t afflict them over the rest of the season to the extent that it did on Saturday. Not only did Everton’s winner come in the second minute of injury time but injury struck Morten Gamst Pedersen and David Dunn who both limped off during the first half.
Misses from the spot by David Hoilett and Mauro Formica ensured that it has been a start to the season that Blackburn will not want to dwell on for too long, but with the international break coming into play that is exactly what they will be forced to do between now and the next Premier League fixture in two weeks’ time.
No points from three games saw Rovers prop up the table on Saturday night but they will be thankful that Tottenham Hotspur have already come up against both Manchester sides in a hurry to stamp their authority on the league. City’s 5-1 win at White Hart Lane followed United’s 4-0 victory at Old Trafford to leave Spurs rooted to the foot of the table on goal difference.
Sitting in 19th place with no points is no cause for celebration though, as Rovers have posted their worst start to the season in the Premier League era. That the latest defeat came in a match in which Blackburn missed two penalties accentuates the biggest problem Rovers face this season; scoring goals.
A look at some attacking statistics of the opening three games of the season in comparison to Blackburn’s performance in recent years makes a compelling case for stumping up the cash for a proven goalscorer before the transfer window closes on Wednesday.
Rovers have created a chance every 8.61 minutes so far this season, compared to a chance every 11.86 minutes last season, showing that it is not a failure to create that is preventing Rovers from finding the back of the net, but an inability to apply the finishing touch in front of goal.
This assertion is supported by a gap of 142 minutes between each Rovers goal, a shooting accuracy of just 34% and a chance conversion rate of just 6% to date this season. Each of these statistics are the poorest posted by Blackburn in the last four years in the Premier League.
The wastefulness in front of goal this season is all the more alarming when you consider that scoring goals was already a weakness of Blackburn’s prior to this campaign. A comparison with the three relegated sides of 2010/11 demonstrates that the prior year comparatives used above are not unattainably high and Rovers must improve in the final third if they are to avoid the fate suffered by Birmingham City, Blackpool and West Ham United.
Even Birmingham, who were the only Premier League side to average less than a goal a game in 2010/11, posted better minutes per goal, shooting accuracy and chance conversion statistics than Blackburn have mustered so far this season.
Against Everton, Rovers were the better side for much of the game and can feel aggrieved not to have come away with at least a point. Everton retained 59% of possession and completed 71% of their 371 passes, compared with Blackburn’s 63% pass completion from just 254 passes, yet there was little penetration to the visitors’ play. Tellingly, despite playing significantly fewer passes, Blackburn attempted more final third passes (142) than Everton (121).
Everton’s late penalty aside, all the best chances fell to Blackburn, but without a clinical finisher in their ranks no one could add the coupe de grace. Rovers’ three Davids all came close to finding the breakthrough, as Dunn’s left-foot effort struck the inside of the post, Hoilett saw his penalty saved by Tim Howard and Goodwillie fired a deflected shot off the crossbar, while Mauro Formica’s penalty also struck woodwork, coming back off the post.
The statistics support Blackburn’s dominance, as Rovers fired in 21 shots (including blocked shots) to Everton’s 11, completed twice as many crosses, 8 to 4, and entered the final third 82 times, over double the number of forward forays completed by the Toffees, who did so just 39 times.
Ultimately, the two penalty misses on Saturday reinforce the need to add a clinical finisher to the Blackburn squad. The two penalties won against Everton match the entire haul Rovers received last season – no Premier League side were the beneficiaries of fewer penalties last term – emphasising that these chances must be taken when they arrive.
At the other end of the pitch only Arsenal gave away more penalties than the eight conceded by Blackburn last season and Arteta’s late penalty this weekend sent Rovers back into second place in the penalty concession table this time round. Only Norwich have given away more than the two Blackburn have conceded, having afforded the opposition a chance from the spot in each of their three matches on their return to the top flight.
Arteta’s composed finish at the death got Everton up and running for the season but left Blackburn still in their blocks with no points from three games. However, there were plenty of promising signs from the performance this weekend and should a striker with an eye for goal arrive before the transfer window closes then there is little to suggest that Blackburn can’t get off the mark at Fulham in two weeks’ time.