The Seasiders will be looking to continue their fine run of successive victories as they head to London Road to face table-toppers Peterborough United. Posh head into the game off the back of a surprising 2-0 defeat away to Crewe Alexandra. Blackpool boss Neil Critchley will be hopeful that his side can put in a performance to show his side are capable of fighting at the top end of the table.
I’m quite looking forward to this one. It’s the test that we’ve all been anticipating for this Blackpool side and a good performance here will really prove the team have come a long way from the winless run mere weeks ago. There’s no doubt in my mind that Peterborough are the toughest test in League One so it will be a real benchmark of where our side sit.
Do we match them up?
Going into the game I have always been of the mind that we should stick with the winning 4-4-2 formation that has served us well in our recent games. However, having done a fair bit of research on the opposition and also having spoken to Posh fan Nathan Brown on Episode 21 of the 1-2 podcast, I have changed my mind completely.
Now it means that players who have been on form may have to miss out but I can’t stress how much we could benefit overall by matching up Peterborough. The London Road side play a 3-4-1-2 formation that switches into a 5-3-2 in defensive phases of play. This formation allows them to spread the play and provide sparks from wide areas whilst controlling the central midfield area. Their average possession usage is evenly distributed between the left and right flanks at 35% and central areas at 30% which shows they don’t heavily favour one outlet.
In comparison, we have relied quite heavily on the right hand side at 43% possession usage compared to the central areas at 25% and the left hand side at 32%. We all know that an over-reliance on CJ Hamilton is the main reason for this and that has actually been addressed quite well in recent games. However, it’s important that we are reliant on all areas of the play if we want to stand a chance against this Peterborough unit.
Their main creative outlet is right wing back Joe Ward who has provided six assists in 10 starting appearances. Peterborough look to get in between as much as possible and Ward has been key in allowing that to take place, tending to force his opposition full back deep early on. I would argue James Husband is the weak link in the defence if Jordan Gabriel plays ahead of Oli Turton and Posh will look to target his lack of real positional sense and recovery pace throughout the game. Husband really has to step up to provide that defensive cover needed to stem Joe Ward and with a switch to 4-3-3 that I would recommend, that would allow the left sided central midfielder to offer additional cover where necessary to close the half space.
Our defensive like playing against teams who play in front of us. It allows us to be aggressive and hold a high line in order to defend from the front as much as possible. The 4-4-2 system has allowed us to do this perfectly because we trust our ability in the air even against physical sides like Burton and Wigan. Peterborough will approach this game differently than those sides, we will not have to rely on our aerial presence as much at the back, more importantly will be the organisation of our offside trap and the ability to recover with pace when they get in behind.
Siriki Dembele and Jonson Clarke-Harris provide the perfect partnership in order to create opportunities to play the ball in behind, stretching our back line and testing their ability to defend a different style of play. With that in mind I feel we have to either sit deeper to force Posh to play in front of us more than they would like, or go the complete other way and press with a real intent and aggressive from the front to stem any attacking build up play before it gets anywhere near our final third.
Let’s be honest, the latter of those approaches is more exciting and it’s what we want to see. Peterborough struggled against Crewe for precisely that reason, they pressed with aggression and matched up the back three of Peterborough with a front three of their own to stem progressive play from the front. We enjoy playing against sides like Crewe and MK Dons because it allows us to take more risks and trust in our processes to break beyond the press with pace. Peterborough don’t like that because they rely on their back three to be the start of their attacking phases. Sometimes, in the Sheffield United mould, using overlapping centre backs when required.
If we play a front three of Yates, Madine and Hamilton and sit narrow in that three practically man marking each centre half, we will stem a lot of what Peterborough are wanting to do. But we have to trust in our ability to do it for the whole game and we have to be brave and take major risks. The midfield three will have to continuously cover half spaces to stop their wing backs from pinning Husband and Gabriel back.
Peterborough have double the expected goals (xG) tally as us this season and they are lethal in front of goal. As much as I want us to switch formation to stem the threats of Posh, I feel like Critchley would much prefer to stick with a winning formation in 4-4-2 and who can blame him. I must admit I would not be at all surprised to see him switch systems as the game progresses if early on Peterborough are getting a lot of joy, particularly in the wide areas.
This game is going to be our toughest test this season and a result would be phenomenal for us. Most importantly for me it’s all about the performance. Give a good account of ourselves and I think we’ll all come away fairly happy. It’s important we don’t lose control of the game if we concede though, it could really derail any positive momentum if things take a turn for the worse.
I trust in Neil Critchley and Colin Calderwood’s game management for this fixture however. Mainly because we’ve seen our best performances when we’ve matched teams up, against Swindon, Crewe and MK Dons. We like playing against expansive teams because we can break with pace and have to be aggressive in the press to match up their capabilities. This is what Critchley thrives on so we have to be quite optimistic for this one.
How Sean would match Peterborough up (4-3-3 narrow) Below
How Sean thinks Critchley will lineup (4-4-2) Below
Sean’s Prediction: Peterborough 1-1 Blackpool (Yates) Key Player: Kenny Dougall
What approach do you think we should go with? Let us know in the comments below.
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Stats provided by: Who Scored
Image: The Posh