One of the most bizarre things about supporting Albion in recent years has been our fairly respectable form against the so called “bigger sides” such as yourselves – a source of great personal frustration for me, as I watch us threaten to push on up the league taking points off the big boys, before we go and lose to Watford or Bournemouth at home.
I’m an eternal pessimist, but this weekend’s game offers up an interesting clash of styles that means perhaps the result of the game won’t be as clear cut as it appears on paper.
Klopp’s embittered reaction to the way that we play after our draw last season, in my eyes wasn’t unfounded. I, more than anyone else, get very frustrated by the dark ages style so often offered up by our side – and to an extent we have seen an improvement on what has unfortunately become recognised as the ‘West Brom way’ in recent years.
The signing of Nacer Chadli has no doubt been a smash hit, and his creativity has underpinned most of the good things we’ve done so far this season – 4 goals, and 3 assists in his first 4 games is no shabby return at all from midfield. I’m already convinced that the Belgian international is punching well below his weight at a club like ours – he looks Champions League quality. Chadli, combined with under radar new signing Matty Phillips and the resurgent James McClean have finally started providing the brilliant Salomon Rondon with the service he needs to make a proper dent in some Premier League defences. This has meant that – at home at least – Albion have looked a far more threatening proposition in the league.
Indeed, there can be no doubting that your attack can match up to any in the league, and should your star players turn on the style, there is no amount of Pulis driven defensive shape that can keep the likes of Coutinho, Firmino and (the recently very impressive) Lallana at bay.
Despite our more fluid start to the season, having watched us bank up against Spurs first hand last weekend, I would hazard that our strategy, like last year – will function on frustration. As upsetting as it will be watch – clearly we will not attempt to stand toe to toe with you in terms of attacking prowess, to do so would be virtual suicide. Expect us to bank up – a functional 4-5-1 with Salomon Rondon providing a potential outlet up front.
In many way I’d expect the game to hinge on the opening half an hour. Should we prevent an early goal and not have to chase the game – we always have a chance. You will know first hand just how good we are from set pieces, and with a poor track record of defending in this quarter – with Klopp admitting as much in the week – I’ll fancy us to nick something every time we get a corner or free kick around the box.
That said, if you score early on – then the floodgates could open. It’s not yet in our DNA to chase a game – we thrive on preventing goals and frustration. Should the impetus be to attack you, then I fear that we may simply be picked apart.
I certainly do not fear your defence, but I (as I am sure Pulis is) do worry about the pace and fluidity of your frontline, and the damage that it could do. No one can deny that we are one of the most impressive defensive units in the Premier League – but with the hugely influential Jonny Evans suspended for our trip to Anfield, I am sceptical that we can keep you at bay for 90 minutes.
The romantic in me suggests we can nick a goal from a set piece – but it’s unlikely. We’ve been on a decent run in recent weeks – picking up useful points, but it’s time for that to end at the hands of Liverpool at the weekend.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-0 West Brom
As one final aside – I believe that this is the year that you can have a proper tilt at the title. You’ve got one of the best managers in the world, a man who can galvanise a team – make them play expressively and emotively, with pace and passion. You’ll be too much to handle for most teams this campaign – and it’s refreshing to see you back in the title picture, alongside the likes of Spurs and Man City!
It’s going to be quite a season for you – here’s hoping Albion can create a minor derailment on Saturday!
Written by @J_Bland_Writer