The Blues travel to the Hawthorns this weekend for a match up with Roy Hodgson’s resurgent West Brom and will be looking for revenge for the 4-1 thumping received at Goodison back in November in what was one of the grimmest months of the Moyes regime.
West Brom Strategy and Intel
The Baggies may have only been managed by Roy Hodgson for several months, but already they are well accustomed to his ‘shape, shape, shape’ tactical approach. The wobbly faced maestro has built a career on setting up teams to be organised and defensively astute. They will setup4-4-2with attacks focused down their left side- the Baggies have the highest % (24%) in the division for goals scored from shots from the left side #useless statistic.
Creatively, their main influence is Northern Ireland International Chris Brunt, who creates a chance for opponent every 38 minutes, cutting in from right to left with 9 of these leading to goals. In comparison, Baines creates an opportunity for us every 54 mins, 11 of which have resulted in goals. The Baggies also have a prolific forward in their ranks, the former Lokomotiv Moscow man Peter Odemwingie who has plundered an impressive 15 goals in his debut season, averaging a shot on target every 65 minutes. The Baggies sit bottom of the half time league indicating they start games slowly but have great mental strength in coming back into games in the second half.
Their achilles heel is defending set plays as was shown in last weeks display to local rivals Wolves. With Paul Scharner suspended last week this vulnerability from crosses into the box was highlighted and although he is back this week, Baines delivery could be vital. It’s also worth noting that only Blackpool have shipped more goals in the top flight this season and that West Brom haven’t kept a clean sheet in their last 17 home games, the joint-longest run ever in Premier League history.
Past Meetings and Recent Form
West Brom lost last time out to local rivals Wolves, but beforehand had suffered just 1 defeat in their previous 10 games. The Blues on the other hand have only lost once since that dark day at the Reebok back in early February, and that coming at Old Trafford.
In the reverse fixture at Goodison this campaign the Baggies routed us 4-1, aided and abetted by a crazy red card for Mikel Arteta and some incredibly slack displays by Heitinga in particular although in fairness WBA were winning before the sending off and played really well. Last time out at the Hawthorns was back in August 2008, when Yakubu and Osman strikes gave a patched up Blues outfit a 2-0 win on a warm summer’s day.
Blues Strategy and likely lineup
I would imagine the Blues would start with something resembling the 4-2-3-1 lineup which finished last week’s game withManCity, with Rodwell for Cahill perhaps the only change.
Last week was a great win for the Blues but it again showed that Moyes perhaps doesn’t know his best midfield balance, with only Heitinga out of the initial 5 man midfield occupying his deployed role for the full 90 minutes: in total we have deployed 8 different central midfield combinations this season.
This was one of the major issues at the start of the season, as our midfield seemed imbalanced, particularly from a defensive point of view where we were far too easy to play through. 4-2-3-1 seems a good fit for us with the players we have and the delineation in attacking and defending duties of the midfielders. Heitinga looks more comfortable tasked solely with defensive duties in this midfield setup and in the 9 games Neville has started in midfield this season we have lost just 1.
With Fellaini to come back into the equation for pre season and Barkley expected to emerge next season, the complexion of the midfield is something we really need to pin down in the summer months if we are to avoid another awful start to the season next time out.
The Blues are finishing the season in really good form and I expect this to continue this weekend with us having a bit too much quality for the Baggies. 2-1 to the Toffees.