They haven’t started badly but they haven’t set the world alight either. West Brom were, for the past decade, the perennial yo-yo dieters; feasting on the delights of the Old Trafford buffet dinner one season and munching on Blackpool’s discount foie gras the next. However, the last two seasons seem to have halted the bungee rope successes of the Midlands club.
West Brom were promoted from the Championship under Roberto Di Matteo and they achieved their best Premier League start ever with the Italian at the helm. Unfortunately, West Brom’s good start to the campaign wasn’t to last and early in February 2011, the Italian was sacked having gone 11 games with only one win. For the fans, the hiring of Roy Hodgson may have been somewhat underwhelming yet reliable.
The Wise Old Owl had achieved relative success with Fulham, leading them to a Europa League final, and many were touting him for the England job. However, his move to Liverpool failed to act as a catalyst for the talented manager; it did quite the opposite. The pressure of a top four team, or at least one with the expectation, was seemingly too much for Hodgson and without having time to have his tyres stolen, Hodgson was dismissed from his post at Liverpool.
It proved to be the latter, reliable, and Hodgson resurrected a West Brom season that had seen the Baggies lose 13 of their last 18 games before he took the reigns. Consistency is what is almost guaranteed with Hodgson and it is what was needed at The Hawthorns. Having seen as much of Cardiff as they had Chelsea in the past decade, you’d forgive the club for wanting someone to steady the ship and ensure West Brom could stay up and stay up convincingly. With the then current LMA Manager of the Year running things, Albion achieved their best top flight finish for 28 years; 11th place and only 2 points off his former club, Fulham.
It was a good finish. It was better than expected. It shouldn’t be admired though. West Brom need to build on this and take their chance in a season where results are fluctuating like the predictions of the end of the world. The goals to game ratio is the highest it’s ever been since the formation of the Premier League at 2.97, the top half of the table is more open than ever and, apart from Wigan, there’s no team sinking without a trace, just yet.
With Reliable Roy in charge, they know they can finish mid-table, but who wants mid-table mediocrity every week? Hodgson can boast Premier League consistency; he has won 33% of games with West Brom, he won 34% with Fulham & 35% at both Liverpool & Blackburn, but now he needs to step up a level.
One problem to be remedied was highlighted last season. Whilst Odemwingie occasionally went missing, Chris Brunt didn’t; in fact, Chris Brunt finished fourth in the assists leader board last season and started this one as the provider or scorer for half of all West Brom goals. It was obviously a cause for concern for Hodgson and signing Shane Long has eased the pressure on the Nigerian and Northern Irish, who paired up to the tune of 19 goals and 20 assists. Since coming in, the Irish international has bagged four goals in ten games
Secondly, whilst WBA are starting brightly, scoring 55% of their goals in the first 15 minutes of the game, they are still leaking goals like a poorly fastened tap. Last season, West Brom only kept two clean sheets, the fewest ever in a Premier League campaign and they haven’t kept a clean sheet away from home since the end of the 08/09 season, conceding an average of 2.15 goals a game on the road since. Seemingly, this hasn’t improved much, if at all, with a goal difference of -5 away from home having conceded 11 in 6.
So what is holding West Brom back?
Do they still lack firepower and a provider? Probably not, Odemwingie and Long are scoring and Gera has been added to the midfield department.
Is it because they are conceding too many away from home? Possibly, but this time last season they had conceded 4 more and most importantly, although they still concede at an alarming rate away from home, that figure is lowering.