Hello friends, welcome back to my West Bromwich Albion game. You may remember my side struggling in October and November. We only managed three victories and drew the rest of our fixtures. I was happy to still be unbeaten, but a little disappointed with the dip in form. December and January offered up some very winnable games. I wanted to take advantage and give the fans something to shout about again. Lets see what happened
I started December at Pride Park. Derby occupied 11th in the Championship but were gaining some momentum. This was a key game as I wanted to avoid yet another draw. While selecting my formation and starting 11 I had a revelation. My side are far better than a lot of teams in my division. Up until now I had used a balanced philosophy. With some new players needing to adjust and the team settling into a new league I felt like this was best. Sides tend to play better fluid football when they have settled and gelled. With my players all settled and well into the season, WHY was I still using this cautious philosophy. Maybe it was just that simple. My poor form could have been a result of some players not expressing themselves, or being restricted from their true potential. With this in mind I opted for a 4-4-2 and fluid philosophy. This should get my better players moving around the pitch in a more unpredictable manner.
The first half went well. Simon Cox was brought down inside the area, and Tamas stepped up to score on 16 minutes. My boys were playing without the shackles of previous games. This made me a little proud and Cox was finally playing well in a 4-4-2. The second half started badly seeing West Brom concede a scrappy goal. After thinking it was back to normal Chris Brunt scored a stunner. The game finished 2-1 and I was delighted to record a deserved away win. Simon Cox and Chris Brunt were like different players. This may not be down to my change in philosophy, but I’ll take the credit ; )
My next opponent was Cardiff. With this Welsh side lying deep in the relegation zone, I felt confident of victory at the Hawthorns. Given Cardiff’s bad form I wanted to dominate the ball, so set my side out in a 4-5-1 formation. After my fluid philosophy proved effective against Derby I chose to keep it.
This match started with a bang! My boys were rampant and scored three goals inside 17 minutes. Kristensen got the first and Chris Brunt grabbed himself two goals. If it wasn’t for Dorran’s red card on 37 minutes we could have won five or six nil. Cardiff manged to pull one goal back through Bothroyd in the second half. However my defence were pretty solid and helped make up for the red card. West Brom held out for a 3-1 victory and fantastic performance. Chris Brunt and Kristensen were my stars at the Hawthorns today. Brunt seems to have relished the fluid philosophy and I can’t believe the difference in his performance.
My next game was at home to QPR. After a decent run of results these Southeners lied 7th in the league. My assistant suggested a 4-5-1 which I agreed with, this formation had become my most effective of late. Sticking with my fluid philosophy seemed like a no brain-er but I opted for a change upfront. Chris Wood had impressed on international duty scoring a hattrick for New Zealand. There seemed like no better time than the present to try this 18 year old upfront. I had also noticed in recent matches that my lone striker seemed all alone upfront. Stupid observation I know, but fixing the problem didn’t seem as easy. In the end I decided to change the lone strikers role. It was previously set at complete forward/attack, so I adjusted the duty to support. This should pull him back a little to link up with team mates more, however won’t effect his forward runs into space.
QPR survived an early barage of attacks. My boys had done everything but score. However this changed on the 33rd minute when Wood played in Slory to slot home, a great assist from the youngster. Slory then returned the favour, setting up Wood to score a wonderful goal from 25 yards. I was very happy at half time and felt the need to change nothing. Slory was like a machine today and scored his second after 58 minutes. At 3-0 I decided to rest Chris Wood and Brunt, in their place I used Thomas and Simon Cox. Both players were exceptional and grabbed a goal a piece. The game finished 5-0 and every one of my players deserved a round of applause. Chris Wood finished with a rating of 8.9, very pleasing as he had struggled to make an impact in previous matches. It can’t be proven, but I think my tactical change with changing the lone strikers duty to support made the difference.
Next up Bloomfield Road, an away game against Blackpool. Earlier in the season Blackpool were playing well and challenging myself for top spot. They have since slipped down the table to a low play-off position. I decided to use the same formation and tactics as my QPR game. Wood kept his place as the lone striker and I kept his role and duty the same. West Brom dominated possession and shots on goal during this tie. Tamas was immense scoring two goals and missing a penalty. Had the Romanian scored, it would have being his second hattrick this season.
Peterborough visited the Hawthorns in my next match. They usually field a 4-2-3-1, exactly the same as Liverpool with two defensive midfielders and three attacking midfielders. I find this formation tough to beat but used my 4-4-2 with a fluid philosophy and standard strategy. Cox and the in form Chris Wood started upfront. Peterborough made a good fight of this fixture. My dominance did not count for much as the Posh’s counter attack proved very effective. After Simon Cox gave us the lead Frecklington rounded off a swift counter to equalize. Chris Brunt was the difference yet again, he scored a classic free kick to finish the game off. A 2-1 victory kept me satisfied and extended my lead at the top of the table.
Scunthorpe away was my next match. I used a 4-5-1 with Lazovic as the lone striker. The Irons made hard work of this game, my boys had the better chances but with the opposition box packed out we couldn’t score. The first major incident was Olsson getting a red card in the 58th minute, this was followed by a Gary Hooper goal. With Scunthorpe winning 1-0 and my boys only playing with 10 men, I started to worry about the undefeated record. With only eight minutes to go Chris Brunt saved me, a fantastic run and finish to make it 1-1. If this made me relieved then the next goal made me ecstatic. My supersub Chris Wood made a darting run and calmly slotted the ball home in the 89th minute. After winning 2-1 in that fasion, I have to hand it to my side. They showed a lot of courage and spirit.
My next game at home to Nottm Forest was very straight forward. My 4-5-1 saw us dominate the match and run out 2-0 winners. Slory and Mulumbu scored either side of half time to secure all three points. Another victory in my quest for promotion saw the Premier League dream edging closer.
It seemed my side were enjoying some excellent form. However the transfer window was about to shut so here are the the players leaving West Brom. With so many strikers, the return of Ishmael Miller from injury prompted some action. I decided to let Luke Moore leave. He did not fit into my tactics and seemed like the easiest player to offload. Coventry came in with a bid of £1 million, I accepted their offer and waved goodbye to the Englishmen. Next on my list to go was Roman Bednar, he has underperformed recently and holds a big wage. With Cagliari offering £1.3 million I was just glad to have him off my wage budget. Other than the two strikers I sent some reserve players out on loan. There was no movement to sign anyone though, I have a strong enough side for now. Besides, I had three players returning from injury and they felt like new signings anyway. Giles Barnes, James Morrison and Ishmael Miller could prove vital for my title push.
My last three games went well, leaving me unbeaten during December and November. The draw away from home to Newcastle was expected. My side left it late, but Tamas saved us from defeat. Ipswich and Sheffield Utd were beaten 1-0, the scoreline suggests a tight game but West Brom were in control. Lazovic put in a good shift against Ipswich, while Tamas saved us again, this time against the Blades.
OK, so you have seen my reports from December and January. Below is a round-up of all the results. My side managed 9 victories and one draw from their 10 league games. An excellent run of form, which has seen me run away at the top of the Championship. With 18 games remaining I am 14 points clear of second placed Sheffield Utd. I have not focused much on the Cup matches, they have mainly featured a reserve side. The only notable thing is Millers goal against Newcastle in the FA Cup. That was his first game after 8 months out with injury. Hopefully he will get back to full fitness soon.
Below you can see my squad stats. After a miserable November they have found their form again and this shows in their ratings. Zuiverloon has been my most consistant performer, shortly followed by Mulumbu and Tamas. The Romanian centre back has scored a lot of goals and is my favourite player. 11 goals from defence isn’t too shabby, what ashame he’s only on loan. Maybe I should look at snapping him up come the summer. Chris Brunt has been my most improved player, after a terrible start my change in philosophy has benefitted him the most. Scoring 8 and assisting 5 has being instrumental towards my title hopes.
Its that time again, lets see who is top of my strikers list. Bednar and Moore are not included after departing the club. My top goalscorer is tied, Simon Cox and Slory share 8 goals a piece. However Simon Cox has a superior assist rate with 12 to Slory’s 9 assists. Chris Wood has made a massive improvement from not scoring, assisting and having an average rating of 6.2. However with Ishmael Miller’s return from injury we have another contender, maybe he can make a late dash for top scorer. The goals within my team have been spread out evenly from defence, to midfield, to attack. We have scored the most amount of goals in the Championship and yet my top scorer is a defender on 10 goals. I know football is a team game but is this healthy? Or should I not worry because we are getting the goals anyway? The most important question though is, which of my strikers do you think will top the charts for top scorer?
I have provided you with my fixtures for Febuary and March. Not sure what to make of them really, but I will take each game on its own merit. If my side can sustain the great form, we are bound to win the Championship.
Thats all folks, thank you so much for reading and I look forward to seeing you for my next post. Please feel free to ask any questions below. Thanks again guys.