Thursday, 7 February 2013

Free of the Rochina shackles

I think we can safely say that more than a few jaws hit the floor last Thursday when it came to light that one of Rovers most talented and promising players was exiting the club, leaving behind a fairly positive player/Blackburn fan relationship and moving to Real Zaragoza on loan until the end of the season.

Reasoning that he has since given aside, this set off more than the one alarm bell when it came to light that no-one was being introduced to the club to compensate for the popular Spaniard's seemingly untimely departure.

But despite the obvious talents and technical higher plane on which Ruben operates, will his removal from the Rovers squad ultimately usher in a more productive spell than has been "enjoyed" during his prominent role in the matchday XI?

Because lest we forget, for each seamless turn and arrowing long range pass or finish that Rochina managed to conjure up, there were tenfold more moments of frustration and annoyance that could be laid firmly at his doorstep.

Under the management of Henning Berg and to a lesser extent Steve Kean and Gary Bowyer, Rochina was given a starring role. He was the focal point of most of the attacking play, he was the one, the star and the metaphorical mains that any form of  attacking electricity passed through before being converted to output.

Sadly, this invariably led to a record number of long range attempts on goal ending up being caught in the stands by an ungrateful recipient. Or one extra man being taken on by Ruben's quick feet before possession was lost and others stood there in open space.

Yes, Rochina was at times a joy to watch, but the rest of the time he was a detriment to what Rovers should have been producing. When he was good he was very good, he left stubbornly heterosexual men questioning their sexual orientation. But when he was bad he made you want to lie down in a dark room and cry.

By leaving, the former Barca B man has left us a potentially quality player down - but he has also allowed another more deserving to come to the fore. Not just in terms of highlighting that player's shackled talent but also by allowing a different man to have the team constructed round their needs.

That man is Jordan Rhodes.

Mention to a Huddersfield Town fan that up until recently we've been playing their former hot shot striker as a lone frontman and they assume that you're kidding. Worse, just flat out lying to them.

And here is the second half of the Ruben Rochina problem - by playing him in the side you physically can't play the 4-4-2 formation that Rhodes thrives on. Rochina isn't an orthodox wide man, nor is he a central striker - he's an old school number 10 forward, an attacking midfielder in the modern game parlance. When playing the Spanish one we were depriving the Scottish one of his scoring oxygen... it's a testament to the brilliance of Rhodes he's scored as many as he has to date.

You certainly can't play Ruben as part of a two man midfield as his central midfield partner would spend a full 90 minutes plugging the gaps left behind by the roaming Armada.

4-3-2-1, 4-2-3-1, 4-5-1. Not answers on a maths test, formations that we've had to play in recent times to accommodate the most technically gifted player we have. All of these variations in system have left the overworked and service starved Scottish international leading a lonely life at the end of the pitch which wins you football matches.

But under Appleton the initial idea appears to be to operate in the English favourite that is 4-4-2. Heck, even Mike Bassett thought that was the way to go and he didn't have such a talented goal getter in his ranks.

If as hoped/expected/badly needed Rovers can bring in Jerome Thomas and DJ Campbell (just need to get the fax machine working and a halfway functioning director in place to pull it off) this will further reinforce the need to put someone alongside the excellent Rhodes and make him the hub of the team.

You are supposed to build your teams round your best players but Appleton seems to want to implement a system and a platform first and then pick the players that fit that framework best. It's a smart move and one that wouldn't have ultimately benefitted our "best" player in Rochina, but will help our most productive (18 goals in 26 games).

Most of us may have been up in arms last week when Rochina took the fastest route he could find back to Espana but I suspect, with the benefit of hindsight and a period of reflection, that the team could become more efficient as a whole - even if it means one of the better parts has been removed from the machine.


  1. Excellent piece again Mikey, keep the blogs coming!

  2. Couldn't have put it better myslef. Excellent perspective on the situation!

  3. Are you applying for Cryers job??

  4. Once again, another great read.

  5. You're absolutely right, again.
    Rochina didn't really fit a pattern of play, but wouldn't it have been fantastic to have been able to bring him off the bench for the last fifteen minutes to make a difference and change things around and maybe salvage a point or three. Maybe he would want more, but his own assessment of his own worth is probably too inflated. As someone has already said, Barcelona don't get it wrong too often and they felt he was better moved on. Sorry to see his mercurial talents go, but at least no more head in hands.

  6. I agree however you say Rubens liability was that he would shoot from anywhere and was greedy. We've replaced him with CKR essentially to fit 4-4-2. Would you say CKR isnt greedy? and dosent provide a record number of shots on goal from 40 yards plus? The main difference being that at least Ruben would hit the target once in every 50 attempts. If you noticed in the last game, once Rhodes had scored 2 goals, CKR had no interest in passing to him, it was all about him trying to get his goal from then on.

    The sooner CKR is replaced by someone who isnt on the pitch for the sole reason that "hes tall and fat", the better (best).

    With a diamond midfield and a strong CDM we could have played Ruben behind a top 2, but Murphy's legs would never handle that.

    Once thing that does unnerve me about Appleton is the fact that he thinks the subs are not required. That the 11 guys who play are fit enough to play against the 14 involed from the other team. Without being a conspiracy theorist, it does make you wonder whether this is personal choice or appearance fee driven.