West Bromwich Albion head into the weekend with only Sunderland below them in the Premier League table after 4 games.
Sunderland are the latest opponents for Steve Clarke’s side who they host at the Hawthorns on Saturday.
It’s too early into the season to dub this as a “must win” for the Baggies, but their form has been so bad since the second half of last season that they will be almost desperate for the 3 points against the league’s bottom club.
Last season flying high…
A 4-2 victory at the Stadium of Light last season moved West Brom up to third place in the Premier League on 24 November, a position they remained in after each team had played 13 games following Chelsea’s 0-0 draw at home to Manchester City the following day.
West Brom went on a three-game losing streak following that victory, scoring just one goal and losing 1-0 at home to Stoke City who at the time were in good form of their own. It wasn’t until the 2-1 victory at Queens Park Rangers on Boxing Day that form started to take a huge dip for the Baggies.
The victory at Loftus Road was West Brom’s first success in the capital in 11 attempts and had them 6th at the midway point of the season (19 games). Steve Clarke had talked down dreams of Europe.
Results during the first half of the season included a 3-0 thrashing of Liverpool where Romelu Lukaku scored on his debut, 1 2-0 win over David Moyes’ Everton, a 2-1 win over Roberto Di Matteo’s Chelsea in what would be the Italian’s final
Premier League game in charge of the Blues and having scored in 15 of those 19 matches.
Romelu Lukaku was turning into a star, Ben Foster was having a solid season in goal and Claudio Yacob was forming a stern partnership with Youssouf Mulumbu.
Then enter the second half of the season…
Beaten 2-0 at Manchester United in their final game of 2012 was the beginning of a sequence which saw West Brom pick up just 1 point from six. That was a 2-2 draw at home to rivals Aston Villa, following a 2-1 home loss to Fulham and a late 3-2 loss at Reading (the hosts scoring 3 goals in the final nine minutes to turnaround a 0-2 deficit).
West Brom had also been eliminated in the third round of the FA Cup to Queens Park Rangers in a replay at the Hawthorns.
A second win of the season against both Liverpool and Sunderland followed as well as making it 9 points from a possible 12 with a 2-1 home victory against Swansea City on 9 March.
West Brom have played 13 Premier League games since beating the Carling Cup winners, winning just 1. That one win was 3-0 at 9-man Southampton on 27 April.
They lost 3-1 at West Ham, 3-2 at home to Wigan and 4-0 at Norwich towards the end of last season, but an 8th place finish proved to be the highest in West Brom’s Premier League history (7 seasons).
The absence of Romelu Lukaku this season has certainly taken away a big portion of West Brom’s attacking threat. The Belgian striker scored 17 goals in 35 Premier League appearances and is West Brom’s all-time single season top scorer in the Premier League.
Peter Odemwingie had been a good threat in attack and on the counter attack too for the Baggies the previous season but he was sold to Cardiff City this summer.
This season’s attack
Spending £6 million on Victor Anichebe seems a desperate buy to me. The former Everton striker has not scored more than 6 goals in a single season during the seven seasons he was in Moyes’ first team.
Shane Long is a decent striker but he went on a long run between December and April last season without scoring and has yet to score in his 3 starts/254 minutes this campaign.
Conceding 4 goals in their opening 4 matches has to be one positive for West Brom – only Manchester City and Arsenal averaged a goal per game against or less last season. The attacking threat is the major concern though with long range efforts from James Morrison and Chris Brunt all they have to show for, alongside Gareth McAuley heading home a set piece last weekend.
West Brom’s first televised game in the UK is in matchday 7 when they host Arsenal on Sunday 6 October before the international break.