Garry Monk made seven changes from the winning side that beat Cardiff on Saturday. Marco Silvestri, Lewie Coyle, Liam Cooper, Kalvin Phillips, Kemar Roofe, Alex Mowatt and Marcus Antonsson all started, Blackburn also made big changes from their side that beat Rotherham on Saturday. The most pleasing thing was the way the players went about it, clearly sticking to the style Monk is drilling into them despite a lack of game time in some areas.
Monk stuck with the 4-2-3-1 but there was a couple of surprises. Kalvin Phillips played the number 10 role currently occupied by Pablo Hernandez. Phillips hasn’t played that position for the first-team before but did play that role in the youth teams. Alex Mowatt, a natural number 10 started from the right and Roofe from the left. It did feel like Mowatt was pushed wide to give Phillips a game, and when he moved inside he was much more effective, eventually running out of steam in the wide areas and being substituted. Liam Cooper captained the side despite Kyle Bartley starting the game.
On the ball we were very good and some fans need to realise that when we play it from side to side or backwards it’s clearly a plan, trying to start from another angle. With O’Kane and Vieira in the side we were always going to attempt to play through the lines and I enjoyed the shape and plan from Monk and the team. The ball rarely went long unless Liam Cooper had it, and it’s something we seriously have to drill that out of him. Five or six times he played long balls that just rolled out of play or to the keeper, I feel like we’re past that now. Lewie Coyle slotted in and was brilliant, but others didn’t impress me.
Marco Silvestri just doesn’t cut it, kicking and commanding are so poor. Charlie Taylor pulled out of two or three tackles but seemed to get away with it, and made a late block to paper over a pretty half-hearted performance…again. I don’t think Phillips did himself justice on the ball but worked harder than any other player and went into every tackle with his heart on his sleeve. He was much better when he went deep and played alongside O’Kane. Marcus Antonsson struggled to make the runs to cause Blackburn too many problems and was replaced by Chris Wood, who to be perfectly honest was brilliant all round, he really changed the game. O’Kane and Vieira were impressive and Roofe looked dangerous but is a work in progress.
Man of the match – Eunan O’Kane – So composed and clever. Found room to receive the ball in every position and dictated the pace of the game from start to finish.
Silvestri – 6 – Just not good enough at the basics for me.
Coyle – 8 – Very good performance as always. Showed the defensive and offensive qualities he possesses.
Bartley – 7 – Good at commanding at the back, simply doesn’t look as good without Jansson.
Cooper – 6 – Needs to cut out the long balls, twice came out and missed the ball, lacking match practice.
Taylor – 6 – Half hearted but did his job as normal. Very frustrating to watch, so clear he doesn’t want to be here.
O’Kane – 9 – Maybe slightly high because he didn’t do anything “special” but to me a player dominating and dictating through his movement and passing is a special ability at any level.
Vieira – 7 – Encouraging and commanding, the more time he gets the better.
Mowatt – 7 – Yet again out of position and forgetting his last 5 minutes where passes went stray due to fitness I thought he was very good on the ball and very clever in his positioning.
Phillips – 6 – On the ball he was very average and caught out time after time. Worked so hard and put his foot in all over. Great prospect.
Roofe – 7 – Looked dangerous but frustrated me when he worked himself into encouraging positions. Needs to have confidence in his ability, it’s for that reason we paid £3 million for him.
Antonsson – 6 – Still learning how to lead the line on his own. Worked very hard, no chances at all.
Hernandez – 7 – Looking better by the game, tricks and confidence, can’t wait to see him fully fit. Seemed to scare the life out of Blackburn.
Wood – 8 – Looked brilliant when he came on, held up play, ran the channels and for the 6th time this season found the back of the net.
Grimes – 5 – Didn’t do much of note, worked hard and had a shot saved.