The Baggies under Hodgson where perennially two banks of four in close proximity, usually 4-4-2 with an emphasis on defensive shape and being tough to pull out of this shape. This formula achieved decent results and a period of stability. Clarke has looked for evolution not revolution maintaining the bulk of the squad and making a couple of shrewd purchases to add to what is a decent side. He has shifted a bit more towards 4-2-3-1 with Odemwingie and Gera in the wide offensive roles against Liverpool with the more defensive Dorrans and Fortune selected in the trip to WHL last week for various reasons. Odemwingie should be fit enough to return and I’d expect them to line up like this;
4 points from his first 2 games is a very competent start for new boss Steve Clarke considering he was one of the front runners to get sacked pre season. A comfortable 3-0 win against Liverpool and a credible 1-1 draw with Spurs were both good results but must be put into the context that both of these sides are in transition under new managers with their respective personnel also in a state of flux. Whilst Clarke is also a new manager the starting players – with the exception of Yacob – all know each other pretty well and this is certainly a strength of WBA’s and why I’m expecting a much tougher game than Villa last week.
One to watch
Claudio Yacob will be a name unfamiliar to most but has already proved to be an excellent capture especially considering there was no fee involved in his transfer. Yacob has good pedigree having been capped for Argentina and playing over 100 games for Racing Club where he was also club captain. His passing range is decent as is his positional play. The midfielder is also the Baggies top passer so far with a 91.6% completion from his 47 passes per game.
We will be facing a team who won’t be as open as Villa and as such we will need to be even more creative than we have been to open WBA up. Their centre backs McAuley and Olsson are strong in the air and will defend the high ball into their box all day long. We need to pull them out of this comfort zone and take them into areas of the pitch and situations they are less at ease. Expect Fellaini to come deep and act as the starting point for most attacks with Jelavic looking to run in the channels between the centre backs and fullbacks. If this works and the 2 centre backs are pulled into deeper and wide zones there will be space to exploit for the likes of Naismith and Pienaar. We have no injuries with Hibbert back after missing last weeks win at Villa. I’d expect Mirallas to get another 30mins most likely from the bench.
The last 3 games against the Baggies (home and away) have seen less than 2.5 goals scored; last season we won both games without conceding.
4 to ponder…
13/2 Naismith scores anytime / Everton win double (Betfred)
4/5 Under 2.5 goals in the game (Bet365)
10/3 Everton to win by 1 goal (Ladbrokes)
19/2 Jelavic last scorer, Everton win Double (William Hill)
For a full preview of the weekend’s betting check out the FBI Column here