Before Blackpool’s game against Fleetwood, they find themselves sat in 8th place, following 6 wins, 5 draws and 4 defeats, including their last game against Peterborough, which they lost 4-2 at home.
Against Peterborough, Blackpool struggled throughout the first half, and found themselves down to 10 men and 2-0 down shortly after half time.
The Seasiders ended up losing 4-2, and struggled for long periods of the game. But Peterborough are not the only top side that Blackpool have struggled against this season.
They have struggled against Derby at Bloomfield Road, also losing that game, whilst struggling to a draw away against Oxford United, and nicking a win away against Barnsley.
So, why are Blackpool struggling so much against the better teams in the league, and what can they do to turn it around?
The Tinkerman Strikes Again
In Neil Critchley’s last stint at Blackpool, he earned himself the nickname ‘The Tinkerman’ for his consistent changing of the team.
No matter whether the team had just won 5-0, or lost a tight game, Critchley would always make a change or two, and tweak the formation to suit his next opponents.
This drew criticism from some fans, as they wanted to see their best 11 players on the pitch week in week out, playing a certain style of football, regardless of the opposition.
Despite this constant rotation, it did win Blackpool promotion back to The Championship, but the constant rotation meant that The Seasiders could not string a good run of results together.
Fast forward to Critchley’s second stint, and his status as The Tinkerman had returned. Whilst his team selections have mostly stayed the same, he has instead tinkered more with the formation.
So far this season, Blackpool have traditionally played a 3-5-2 formation, which has often turned into a 5-3-2 throughout the game.
However, against the bigger teams this season, Critchley has opted to match the opposition's formation, man for man, which the fans do not agree with.
The fans still want a certain brand of football, being played regardless of the opposition, or how they line up, yet Critchley is constantly changing that.
It means that players such as CJ Hamilton, who has been playing as a makeshift wing-back, have been relied on defensively in one game, yet in the next, they are wanted to be more attacking.
The constant chopping and changing has led to some players looking lost on the pitch in recent matches, with CJ Hamilton‘s performance coming under scrutiny against Peterborough, despite a good run of form beforehand.
Relying on just one formation will allow Blackpool to focus on their style of football, and not worry too much about how the opposition are playing. To improve against these top sides, Blackpool need to impose their own style of football on the opposition.
Key Players Missing
One thing that Blackpool may have to contend with in their future fixtures is some key players being out.
Ollie Norburn has missed Blackpool’s last few games, including that crunch match against Peterborough, through injury, whilst Casey will now be suspended for their away game against Bolton.
Kyle Joseph, a highly promising striker signed in the summer transfer window, is still yet to make his professional debut with the club, due to an ongoing injury.
Jordan Gabriel is also a long term member of Blackpool’s injury list, having missed all of the season so far.
Alongside him, Andy Lyons has been a long term absentee due to some personal issues, with the full back still being left out of the match day squads.
The growing list of players unavailable for Blackpool is becoming concerning, especially considering they are about to play some of the better sides in the league, and the fixture list will be congested around Christmas time.
It is not the best of times for Blackpool to be losing key players, but they do have strength on the bench.
Jensen Weir had a brilliant season at Shrewsbury last year, and he could fill in for Norburn, whereas Hamilton and Dale have impressed when covering at full back for Lyons.
There is not much else behind Blackpool’s poor form against the bigger sides in the league, their lack of key players available, mixed with the constant rotation of the team and the formation is resulting in them struggling.
Blackpool need to stick to one formation, and play their own game, regardless of the opposition. Once they start to do this, they should find themselves beating those bigger sides.