After a bright start to the season that included a six game unbeaten stretch, with victories over Arsenal and Sunderland, and draws with Manchester United and Tottenham, West Bromwich Albion are currently on a sharp decline.
Tuesday’s 3-0 thrashing at Fulham was West Brom’s fifth consecutive defeat in the Premier League. It leaves them in 16th place, only 2 points above the relegation zone. This run includes losing 2-1 at rivals Aston Villa and a 3-1 home defeat at the hands of Blackburn Rovers. Fulham the latest bottom half side to pick up a valuable 3 points off their fellow relegation contenders.
While West Brom were somewhat fortunate to pick up 3 points at the Emirates and 1 point at Old Trafford in truth, their latest loss of form hasn’t been aided by a mass loss of defenders at the back. Their trip to Craven Cottage saw them starting the game with 18 year old James Hurst starting at right back, with regular right back Gonzalo Jara lining up at centre back alongside backup right back Gianni Zuiverloon. To add insult to injury, left back Marek Cech was taken off with a knee injury in the first half. A Fulham win never seemed in doubt. It wasn’t.
West Brom aren’t helping themselves either. Goalkeeper Scott Carson was at fault for Manchester United’s winner on new year’s day when he failed to claim a corner, leaving Javier Hernandez to head home unchallenged in the six yard box. Carson was again at fault on Tuesday when he failed to deal with Simon Davies shot from outside the area that should have been dealt with easily. That was Fulham’s opener in first half stoppage time. In my pre-season preview of West Brom, I noted that Boaz Myhill was the better of the two and manager Roberto Di Matteo should now seriously consider replacing the former England international.
Paul Scharner, one of four centre backs missing on Tuesday would be a suitable replacement as captain for Carson, should Di Matteo make the sensible move. Other centre backs missing for the Fulham game were Gabriel Tamas, Pablo Ibanez and Jonas Olsson. At least two of these are expected to be back to lineup against Blackpool in West Brom’s next league game on January 15th. An important game for the remainder of West Brom’s season.
West Brom lacked creativity from midfield in their last game. While they showed plenty of it versus Bolton recently, the likes of Chris Brunt, Graham Dorrans, Jerome Thomas and James Morrison failed to get much going. Dorrans has failed to light up the Premier League like many were expecting this season. Morrison has been wasteful.
Another wasteful player of late has been Peter Odemwingie. The Nigerian appears to be lacking in confidence of late. Several misses versus Bolton were enough to knock his confidence. He is without a goal in his last four, and has only netted versus Newcastle in his last eight. We are in the transfer window now, which gives Roberto Di Matteo an opportunity to purchase a striker, as the rest of his bench cannot fill him with confidence. Marc-Antoine Fortune and Ishmael Miller aren’t going to become regular Premier League goalscorers.
West Brom are currently 3/1 fourth favourites to be relegated this season. Victory at home to Blackpool in their next league fixture could increase this, while defeat would only see it shorten. Afterwards, a trip to Blackburn Rovers and then a home tie with Wigan Athletic are very important fixtures in dictating the future of West Brom. Ideally they need to be well above the relegation zone before they face a terrible set of fixtures in March and April.