West Brom Shape
In a spectacularly frustrating afternoon at the Hawthorns, West Brom did to us what we usually do to other sides. In short, they defended very narrow, had great strength through the middle and were happy for us to attack down the flanks. Their key strength lies in their defensive shape – a tactic bestowed to them by former boss Roy Hodgson – and this ability to get lots of men behind the ball was evident with 2 banks of 4 in close proximity as shown below…..
WBA’s new signing Yacob’s capabilities were highlighted in the preview and he was at the centre of West Brom’s solidity, making the most tackles (5) with his positioning on the right side of the centre midfield helping out Reid /Doranns to shut down our left side. Although Baines was still our most productive player going forward his and Pienaar’s usually huge impact was diluted significantly.
West Brom were happy to drop deep and for us to have the ball which we did with more touches, passes and dominance of the ball in the final third (64% v 36%) enabling us more chances (11 v 9) but few of these were clear cut with Foster called into just one save.
At 0-0 Moyes gambled to win the game by bringing on Kevin Mirallas for the jaded Steven Naismith with the Belgian playing through the middle with Osman coming onto the right and Fellaini deeper. With more men committed further forward WBA were given more space to manoeuvre the ball into our half with just 4 touches required to go from their 18 yard line to the opening goal, which was well worked and finished off by Long.
WBA’s centre back’s strength in the air was mentioned in Friday’s preview and sadly we went more direct as the game went on, but with Fellaini now back in midfield this was really playing into West Brom’s hands as their centre backs were happy to repel the aerial ball.
The Belgian had an afternoon to forget at both ends of the pitch; his composure deserted him when put through on goal following great work down the right flank by Mirallas. Then with the game at 0-1 he criminally switched off to allow his marker McAuley a free run at goal from a whipped corner. With Odemwingie standing on Howard’s toes, the centre back was able to rise un-opposed and put West Brom in an unassailable position. Game over.
In fairness to the Belgian the service up to him was dire for the most part; balls to his chest are fine but when they are pitched into his face sides can simply stand off him and hoover up the second balls as West Brom did.
This was a bad day at the office for the Blues and a deserved victory for a WBA side who were always going to be a tough nut to crack. The nagging doubt persists that we will struggle to break sides down who have rigid shape. Man Utd and Villa both came at us which suited us, but WBA were happy to retreat and wait for us to make the first move. Moyes approach was the same as it was here last year i.e keep it tight for 60mins then turn up the heat and go to win it. Whilst he was bold and went for the win in doing so he compromised our own defensive shape which cost us a point.
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