Diamonds are forever – what formation should Rovers use?

With the January transfer window in full flow, the fans are looking at who Rovers will bring in to freshen up the squad and help the charge towards automatic promotion and catching leaders Wigan Athletic and this weekend’s opponents Shrewsbury Town.

With some injuries to key players since the close of the window, in particularly Darragh Lenihan, and Harry Chapman, and more recently Peter Whittingham, certain positions need are crying out for new blood.

The loan signing of Adam Armstrong from Newcastle brings in something that Rovers are missing and have since the start of the season…pace!

The Blue and Whites are missing pace throughout the team, especially in the wide areas since the lengthy injury to Chapman. Players such as Elliott Bennett and Craig Conway offer industry and work rate, but they are missing someone that can beat a player with pace or skill.

Bradley Dack is heavily relied upon in regards to the creativity side of the attack, but recent opposition have cottoned onto this, and especially in the Rochdale game, they man marked our influential midfielder.

Although in the end Dack came out on top in his personal dual, against more organised and better teams, this may cause problems in creating chances.

What the signing of Armstrong does is offers a number of possibilities for Mowbray in regards to formation. He knows what the striker can do having already had him previously when manager of Coventry. And if that season is anything to go off, Rovers fans could be in for an exciting second half to the season.

So what does the manager do?

Changing formation on the back of a 14 game undefeated streak may seem the wrong. But I believe Rovers have become a little predictable, especially at home. The 4-2-3-1 formation (or 4-4-1-1) has worked well in recent weeks. But with the reliability of Dack becoming greater and greater, we can only rely on the newly crowned PFA player of December for so long.

Losing points in recent weeks on the top two has made this weekend’s game a must win, and the manager needs to let go of the reigns holding them back and attack.

Bringing in Armstrong to the starting XI alongside in form striker Danny Graham will freshen up the team, and add the pace that they are blatantly missing, especially at home.

It would be a bold move, but in recent weeks, goals are coming through the middle of the park and not through the wingers.

A diamond formation in the middle of the park would work well with two upfront. A holding midfielder, or quarterback style player, in the form of Evans or Whittingham (when fit), would enable the Blues to go a bit more direct.

But this does massively expose the defence if the full backs are bombing forwards. It may be more beneficial for Mowbray to play Smallwood in the holding role to pick up all the pieces. Then this would push forward one of Whittingham or Evans, alongside Bennett who can get box to box and provides the energy that is needed in this position.

Tomlinson would also add the extra energy needed for this position, but I don’t think Mowbray will throw in the youngster for such a highly pressured game.

In doing this formation, it would free up Dack to have a free role, and push the Shrewsbury defence back, and the holding midfielder should give the full backs licence to push forward and create the width.

This will catch Shrewsbury and their highly rated manager Paul Hurst off guard. The Shrews played extremely well against West Ham, causing the Premier League team a number of problems, and fully deserved their replay.

If Rovers are take the three points on offer on Saturday, they will have to play at their best.

Although a change in formation would freshen up the Rovers style of play after a number of draws in recent weeks, I fully expect the manager to stick with his tried and tested formula, and not rock the boat.

But, Armstrong off the bench would then add something lacking in recent weeks as something different to what is on the field, a game changer.

The Rovers crowd will be up for this game, getting behind the team from the start.

But, adding the pace of Armstrong from the start will intensify the support.

Whatever happens, COYB.

Onwards and upwards.

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