Ever since signing permanently from Newcastle United in 2018, the lifelong Toon fan has been a revelation for Rovers as the young striker goes from strength to strength.
Armstrong ended 2019/20 as Blackburn’s top scorer and eventual Player of the Year, to accompany his Goal of the Year award, just one of many sizzling strikes he picked up along the way. No doubt, there will now be interested Premier League parties who would appreciate his return to the very top, having helped Tony Mowbray’s side to a respectable 11th placed finish.
This scout report will assess Armstrong’s impact across the campaign and why he became one of the deadliest forwards in the division. It will also provide tactical analysis of his strengths in attacking areas, with analysis on his importance as both a scorer and provider for Blackburn.
All good players know that space is arguably the most valuable asset to achieve on the football pitch. With space comes time, with time comes control, and ultimately control causes chances. Armstrong encompasses all of these aspects, enabling him to net 16 goals and assist a further six in the league.
His dictation over the freedom he allows himself, comes from the variety of positions he picks up across the pitch. Armstrong is more than capable of playing anyway across the front four, with his miniature stature and quick mind allowing him to often go unnoticed by opponents.
Away to Reading, he is shown demanding the ball totally unmarked. Instead of rushing to the back post in a crowded penalty area, he patiently holds his ground to allow the pass to come to him.
As he eventually receives the pass, he has ample time to steady himself and move into an easier angle for the shot, or a cross if he desires. Like any confident striker, he lashes the shot into the top corner.
Another of his stunning strikes was owed to his awareness of his positioning on the field of play. Now drifting centrally, Armstrong turns with the ball, in between the Hull City defence and midfield in an almost unmarkable area.
In a similar fashion to the Reading goal, the 23-year-old has the liberty of Ewood Park to clip a cross into a teammate or aim at goal himself. The outcome; another stunner to add to his growing collection.
This can be said in the same breath as his winner against Derby County. He slightly moves away from his marker in between the lines, allowing room to turn unchallenged and find the back of the net.
Amazingly, Armstrong only managed one brace, bagged against Brentford in a 2-2 draw at Griffin Park. The first, a delightfully executed chip, came from his spatial awareness of the Brentford’s high backline. Blackburn goalkeeper, Christian Walton, sent his kick deep and direct. Ethan Pinnock perilously misjudged his header and there was Armstrong ready to pounce, patiently waiting in the space left by a lack of cover from the Brentford fullback of fellow center-half.
What must be so pleasing for Rovers fan is the ambition Armstrong has to drive his team forward at any given opportunity. His positivity is often rewarded by a goal or a chance for himself or someone else in pursuit.
Of the forwards in the Championship to have made over 10 appearances, he ranks seventh for progressive runs per 90 minutes, demonstrating his desire to advance.
His pair of assists in the 5-0 thrashing of Sheffield Wednesday were delivered in an identical direct fashion. One-on-one with the fullback, Armstrong dribbles into the area and although his initial shot is saved, he calmly headers into the path for former Tottenham Hotspur man, Lewis Holtby, to smash into the back of the net.
Fortunately, the ball finds its way to Armstrong again on the left flank. On this occasion, he propels himself towards the by-line to allow for a much simpler return to the grateful Holtby once more.
Goals for himself have also been managed in parallel to his frank approach. Utilising the space previously mentioned, Armstrong bounds down the left channel at speed with one thought in his mind.
As the Preston North End defenders finally get back to surround him, Armstrong is already in his desired spot to cross or cut inside for goal. He rightly chooses the latter, bending a delicious shot into the far corner top open proceedings on the night.
This effectiveness does not just apply to his running. His passing is also largely in the frame of forward-thinking. Of those same strikers with +10 appearances, he is within the top ten for progressive passes per 90 mins and inside the top five for both crosses and passes into the penalty area per 90 mins.
He is the positive force in the Rovers set up and it comes as no surprise they were the fifth-highest scorers in the second division, finishing just seven points below the playoff places. This is in large of course to Armstrong’s additional assists, of which he got seven, the joint second for forwards alongside ex-West Ham product, Ashley Fletcher.
To accompany his ruthlessness, Armstrong has shown great anticipation for potential opportunities. His natural attacking instinct often ensures he is one move ahead of his rivals, punishing them on numerous occasions.
Leandro Bacuna placed a risky pass across the pitch with Sean Morrison his only option. Already, Armstrong has made his move towards the ball and easily intercepts. Still, with plenty of work to get through, he unleashes from a thunderbolt from 45 yards that dips and swerves over Alex Smithies to seal all three points for Rovers in epic style.
Away to Bristol City, another example of wasted possession was part of the process that allowed Armstrong to build on his ever-growing goal tally. Bradley Johnsons tirelessly presses the City players, forcing an error that completely rips open their back-line. As soon as Johnson regains the ball, Armstrong’s momentum had already shifted into second gear as he blasts into the space to eventually finish calmly under the sprawling ‘keeper.
Slightly more subtle, but equally as effective, was in the 1-1 draw against Middlesbrough. As Lewis Travis advances through midfield, Armstrong takes a couple of steps backward to allow his teammate a few more yards to run into. Now with a more comfortable distance between the pair, Armstrong demands the pass into his feet.
In the blink of an eye, he has turned towards goal with a selection to either shoot or return the favor to the feet of Travis. In anticipation of an overlapping run, Armstrong plays it inch perfectly into the path of Travis, who had continued his movement, allowing the no.27 a much simpler sight at goal.
Blackburn Rovers can thank Adam Armstrong for his awesome displays in the Championship this year and will be grateful they turned his loan move into a permanent one in 2018. Now the real challenges are to ensure he is still in a Rovers shirt come the start of 2020/21, and that he can repeat the form that made him such a valuable addition.
The tactics highlighted in this piece give a clear indication that Armstrong can become one of the top strikers in the country. His goals, assists, and general attacking potency would be a dream for any club, but for now, it is Blackburn that is reveling in his services.