Swansea City’s first game of the 2021-22 season sees a trip to Ewood Park to take on Blackburn Rovers. They finished 15th last season, despite boasting one of the league’s top scorers. This will be Russell Martin’s first test as Swansea boss, after joining from MK Dons last weekend.
Their transfer window so far
Although Swansea still require several new additions before the window closes, Blackburn are yet to bring in anyone so far this season. They were linked with Adam Reach, but the midfielder instead moved to West Bromwich Albion following Sheffield Wednesday’s relegation.
Meanwhile, several first-team players have left the club on free transfers. Left-back Amari’i Bell joined fellow Championship outfit Luton Town after making 22 appearances for the club last season. Meanwhile, on-loan Barry Douglas, who made 29 league starts at left-back, made a permanent switch to Lech Poznan.
Midfielders Corry Evans and Lewis Holtby both left the club on free transfers, with the former joining Sunderland in League One while the latter remains without a club. Evans made 18 league appearances for Rovers last season and Holtby played 27 times.
Blackburn also lost their captain Elliot Bennett, with the 32-year-old joining League One Shrewsbury. Although he only made two league starts in his final season with the club, he will undoubtedly be sorely missed in the dressing room. Meanwhile, veteran winger Stewart Downing announced his retirement from football on Monday.
Charlie Mulgrew and Brad Lyons, who spent last season on loan at Fleetwood Town and Morecambe respectively, also departed the club. Mulgrew, the 35-year-old Scotland international, joined Scottish Premier League side Dundee United, while Lyons joined Kilmarnock in the Scottish Championship.
Blackburn will also need to manage without Harvey Elliot, who returned to Liverpool following a productive season-long loan. He made 41 league appearances, scoring seven goals and registering 11 assists. Central midfielder Tom Trybull returned to parent club Norwich, while Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Jarrad Branthwaite concluded their season-long loans from Manchester City and Everton respectively.
Despite losing several first-team players, Blackburn still boast a squad with great attacking talent. Adam Armstrong, who joined the club in 2018 from Newcastle, scored 28 league goals last season. This made him the second highest scorer in the Championship behind record-breaking Brentford forward Ivan Toney.
The Swans will also need to be mindful of Ben Brereton (Diaz), the recent Chile debutant bagged seven goals for the club last season and scored on his first start for Chile in a 1-0 win over Bolivia in June.
Despite missing much of the last two seasons with injury, playmaking midfielder Bradley Dack is one of Blackburn’s most dangerous players. The 27-year-old Englishman was Blackburn’s joint-top scorer in 2018-19 along with former Swans striker Danny Graham, scoring 15 goals in 42 Championship appearances.
Meanwhile, their centre-back pairing of Daniel Ayala and recently appointed captain Darragh Lenihan will no doubt cause problems for the inexperienced Swansea City forwards.
Blackburn Rovers have been managed by Tony Mowbray since 2017, making him the longest-serving current manager in the Championship. As a player, he spent the majority of his career with Middlesbrough, before enjoying four seasons with Celtic and a further five with Ipswich Town.
Prior to joining Blackburn, Mowbray managed several clubs in England and Scotland. He began his managerial career at Hibernian after a brief spell as interim head coach with Ipswich Town. He remained in charge of the Scottish side from May 2004 until October 2006, when he left to join West Bromwich Albion. The Baggies had been relegated from the Premier League in their previous season. In his first season in the Championship, his side finished fourth, beating local rivals Wolves in both legs of the play-off semi-finals before losing to Derby County at Wembley.
A year later, Mowbray guided West Brom back to the Premier League, finishing first in the Championship despite being forced to sell several key players. However, West Brom were relegated back to the Championship at the first time of asking, finishing bottom of the Premier League. He left the club soon after, returning to Celtic to become their new manager in June 2009.
However, his time at Celtic Park was short-lived. After a poor run of form saw them significantly adrift of rivals Rangers, Mowbray was sacked in March 2010, two months before the end of the season.
It did not take long for Mowbray to take another job, as he returned to another of his former clubs, Middlesbrough, in October 2010. The club were sat in 22nd place when he replaced Gordon Strachan. However, after a strong finish to the season, they finished 12th. The following season, they came seventh, narrowly missing out on the play-offs. However, after a poor start to the 2012-13 season, Mowbray left the club.
Almost 18 months later, he returned to management, taking over at League One Coventry City in March 2015. The Sky Blues were at serious risk of relegation into League Two, but a final-day win over Crawley Town was enough to keep them in the third tier. The following season, Coventry finished eighth with current Blackburn forward Adam Armstrong scoring 20 league goals.
Mowbray’s third season at the Ricoh Arena started poorly. In September 2016, he resigned, with the club sat in 24th place. He remained out of management for five months, before taking the Blackburn post in February 2017. Despite an improvement in their form, they were relegated to League One. However, the board wisely stuck with Mowbray, who guided Blackburn back to the Championship in second place in his first full season. Since their promotion in 2018, Mowbray’s Blackburn have enjoyed three midtable finishes. They came 15th in 2018-19, before an 11th-place finish in 2019-20 and another 15th-place finish last season.
Previous meetings with Blackburn
Since Swansea were relegated in 2018, they have faced Blackburn six times. The Swans are unbeaten in this fixture in League meetings since their 4-2 loss away in December 2011, when Yakubu scored all four for the hosts. In their six Championship meetings, Swansea have won twice and drawn four times. All three of Swansea’s visits to Ewood Park in that time have resulted in draws.
Let’s take a look at what happened when the two sides met last season.
31st October 2020
After three successive draws with Blackburn, the Swans welcomed Tony Mowbray’s side to the Liberty Stadium looking for a win to take them into the automatic places.
Ben Cabango gave Swansea the lead in the 25th minute, heading home a well-placed Connor Roberts corner. Blackburn had plenty of opportunities to level the scoring before half-time, but they were unable to find a way past Freddie Woodman in goal.
Fifteen minutes into the second half, Andre Ayew doubled Swansea’s advantage, heading a Yan Dhanda cross beyond Aynsley Pears in the Blackburn goal. The Swans held on to their 2-0 lead, securing their fifth win in their opening nine games.
9th March 2021
In the reverse fixture, the Swans missed the chance to move back into the automatic promotion places, after they were held to a 1-1 draw at Ewood Park.
The hosts took the lead when Bradley Dack slotted beyond Freddie Woodman from close range. However, a fourth penalty in as many games from Andre Ayew made it 1-1 just four minutes later.
What to expect
It is fair to say that neither team has had the best of summers so far. Both squads have been weakened by concluded loan deals, with neither managing to bolster their squads sufficiently before the season kicks off. As of now, the Swans will likely start Steven Benda in goal after Freddie Woodman returned to Newcastle, while Ben Cabango and Ryan Bennett will be the centre-back pairing following on-loan Marc Guehi’s permanent switch to Crystal Palace.
Swansea’s top scorer Andre Ayew departed on a free transfer to Saudi Arabian side Al Sadd, leaving the club with big shoes to fill. New signings Joel Piroe and Kyle Joseph have the potential to provide goals for the Swans, but both are still very raw. Meanwhile, speculation of Matt Grimes’ likely exit will not help matters. The 26-year-old is Swansea’s captain but has attracted interest from Fulham.
Jay Fulton remains suspended following his red card in the play-off final, while Liam Walsh and Grimes are doubts for the first game, leaving Swansea extremely short on options in midfield.
Meanwhile, Connor Roberts remains sidelined following groin surgery. The right-back suffered an injury in Wales’ defeat to Denmark at Euro 2020 and is set to miss at least the first month of the season.
This is likely to be a tough first outing for Russell Martin. The lack of depth in the squad could see Blackburn pick up their first win over the Swans since 2011.