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Oct 24, 2009

Allardyce undone by Blues

If there is a manager who divides opinion among football purists of all persuasions, it is Blackburn's Sam Allardyce.

• Premier League gallery
• Chelsea 5-0 Blackburn
• Harris: Can Chelsea's old guard last the distance?

Big Sam, as he is persistently christened, came within a few votes of becoming England manager before Steve McClaren's ill-fated appointment back in 2006 and yet many observers remain unconvinced by the merits of the functional brand of football he promotes.

It could be argued that Allardyce devised the original blueprint for clubs with lesser resources to survive in the unforgiving and highly-lucrative world that is the Premier League.

The cynics suggest his master plan is little more than long-ball football carried out by players whose physical power is more important than their sporting talent, while admirers hail Allardyce as a revolutionary who has embraced all the technologies on offer in the game during his time at Bolton and Blackburn. He may be the modern day Graham Taylor and that comparison is not designed to be negative.

Former protégé Phil Brown is a 'Mini Sam' in so many ways at Hull City, while the likes of Tony Pulis at Stoke, Gary Megson at his old club Bolton, Mick McCarthy at Wolves and Alex McLeish at Birmingham all employ tactics similar to Allardyce.

Basing their attacking plan around a striker renowned for his aerial ability, 'long passes' and set plays are an effective ploy if you are following the Big Sam game plan. It may not produce sporting excitement to pull in the crowds, but it sure is productive and Allardyce admitted his tactics are fairly basic as he spoke to ESPN's Rebecca Lowe before this game.

"The aim for us today has to be stopping them playing the football they can and they see what we can do from there," he conceded. "Our best opportunity to score will come from set plays as we have seen a few slip ups from Chelsea in that department in recent weeks."

By all accounts, Stoke had carried out a classic Allardyce-style raid with their 1-0 win at Tottenham earlier in the afternoon, yet Blackburn quickly realised they were out of their depth at Stamford Bridge.

Allardyce's ambitions were so nearly dented just 29 seconds into this game as the returning Joe Cole wasted a glorious chance to open the scoring. With just the keeper to beat from seven yards out, he placed his header wide of the post. Lampard's 10th minute long-range effort must have quickened Allardyce's heart-rate and yet his relief at that escape did not last for long.

After Nicolas Anelka broke down the flank and sent in a dangerous cross, Gael Givet had to do something to halt Didier Drogba scoring the first goal and yet he only managed to divert it past his own keeper.

You could not fault Allardyce's men for the effort in the first half yet without flu victim David Dunne in the midfield, one of their most potent weapons was missing, they had no answer to the fluid and incisive football Chelsea were producing.

Lampard and Anelka nearly doubled the Chelsea lead before the break and Allardyce appeared to be chomping more vigorously than normal on his chewing gum as he stood on the touchline in front of us, regularly berating his players. He often spends the bulk of the first half in the stands, but this was not a day to try and be clever.

Rovers needed their leader close at hand and with their only tactics being a long ball to Steven N'Zonzi, Allardyce's hopes of getting anything from this game seemed forlorn from the off. John Terry and Drogba went close to confirming as much as they wasted glorious chances in first-half injury time.

The game was over shortly after the restart as goals from Lampard and Michael Essien ended the contest and with that, Allardyce called a halt to his long-running battle with Jason Roberts. Having spent much of the game berating him, the ex-Bolton and Newcastle boss condemned the striker to the bench for the rest of the game.

Lampard and Drogba added to Big Sam's misery with further goals as the Rovers manager slumped in his seat and tried to find a crumb of comfort in a performance that must have rocked the confidence of his side to the core.

It was to his credit that Allardyce lashed into his woeful team as he met the press. "We were pathetic in the second half," moaned Allardyce. "All the tactics went out the window once they scored their second goal and I'm so disappointed in my players. We felt we had a chance in the game at the break and that was my team-talk to the players, but they did not follow the instructions.

"They should know better than to open up and chase the game against opposition of this quality because they will tear you apart and it comes as no surprise to me that we have lost 5-0 because we made it too easy for them. "

Such honesty wins Allardyce plenty of friends and the truth may be that he was helpless to avoid disaster in this game. With key men unavailable, damage limitation was his only real option and yet Blackburn's failure to minimise this thrashing will send a shiver of fear down the manager's spine.

Fixtures such as this will not decide Blackburn's season and they may be a different proposition when firing at full strength, but this was an evening to forget for Allardyce and his outclassed side.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Frank Lampard. The Chelsea midfielder has been lacking goals this season, but he put that right on a day when his team could have taken their goal tally into double figures. Expect Lampard to go on a scoring run now.

CHELSEA VERDICT: Clinical, ruthless and unforgiving, Chelsea piled the misery onto Blackburn from first minute to last. "It was important to bounce back from the Aston Villa defeat and this performance was very impressive in the second half," said boss Ancelotti, who attended the game after flying back from the bedside of his sick father Giuseppe in Italy.

BLACKBURN VERDICT: They can take nothing from this humbling other than the comfort that they did not lose by more goals. Chelsea could easily have scored ten in this game and the few Rovers fans who made the trip to London had little to take back with them to Lancashire.

ALLARDYCE VERDICT: Blackburn are meant to be set up to make life difficult for opponents on the road and yet they have conceded a shocking 30 goals in their last nine away games in the Premier League. The Allardyce mantra clearly isn't working on the road - next stop Old Trafford.

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