Being sacked is never easy with many plunged into depression and unsure what to do next. But for Paul Lambert, who was sacked by Aston Villa in early February following a poor start to the season it was a different story. The former Scotland international took his sacking by the Midlands club in his stride preferring to travel abroad rather than sulk. But this wasn’t a vacation who instead Lambert has used the last nine months to visit various clubs across Europe like Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid to learn about their methods and get some fresh ideas. Lambert’s return to Germany where he had his greatest moment as a player – lifting the Champions League with Borussia Dortmund in 1997 was the logical place to start his education. He has spent time shadowing some of the great managers of the world like Guardiola, Klopp and Benetiz watching and observing how they interacted with their players, how they setup the club and their philosophies towards the game.
Now brimming with new ideas, Lambert is ready to use what he has learned in his new job as Blackburn manager. The Scot replaces Gary Bowyer at Ewood Park becoming their sixth manager in five years. Sitting 16th in the Championship, Blackburn have won only three times out of sixteen games this season, drawing eight and losing five and with a tough run of fixtures ahead, the clubs owners felt that a change needed to be made. Lambert took training for the first time yesterday as he surveyed his new team and immediately set about implementing what he had learned. The question on many people’s lips is which Paul Lambert will turn up? At Norwich, Lambert played quick passing attractive football which earned plaudits across the board. However at Villa, that passion for attacking flair was replaced with dull slow-paced football that ultimately led to Lambert’s sacking. Differences in the pressure applied by the two respective boards and the complexity of the leagues they were playing in will have had an affect. The Championship may be Lambert’s most comfortable level as a manager which does not bode well for the future if Blackburn are to gain promotion. But he has to get them there first.
Signing new players may be a problem as Blackburn are currently banned from doing so after failing to comply with the financial fair play rules. It would also appear that the Venky’s, the clubs often absent Indian owners are hardly in a hurry to rectify the situation. They are working towards a resolution in time for the January transfer window but it may be next summer before they can have the ban lifted. That means that Lambert may have to operate with the squad he has which in Championship terms needs strengthening to give them a chance at promotion this season. One player who will be key to Lambert’s revival is fellow Scot Jordan Rhodes. The 25-year-old is a natural-born goalscorer whose record in front of goal is remarkable. For the past six campaigns for Blackburn and Huddersfield, Rhodes has scored over 20 goals a season. This year Rhodes is almost half way there already with eight goals in twelve matches.
For Blackburn to be successful under Lambert, he needs to keep Rhodes scoring which may not be easy to do if Lambert switches to his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation. Rhodes has struggled in this formation in the past as the lone striker, often criticized for his lack of effort off the ball. Lambert faces a tough choice between changing the formation of his side to suit the skill set of Rhodes or working with his preferred setup and helping Rhodes to adapt to it. This is where Lambert could be at an advantage if he is able to apply what he has learned on the continent. Both Klopp and Guardiola have a preference towards similar formation setups and both have managed to coach their prized striker into producing results. If Lambert can encourage Rhodes to alter his style of play but not in such a way to affect his goalscoring exploits then he may have a shot of getting exactly what he needs to be a success at Blackburn.