West Brom host table topping Leeds United at The Hawthorns this weekend desperate to get back on track following their recent dip in form. The Baggies were top of the Championship table at the beginning of October but have since slipped to 7th after just one win in six.
West Brom were amongst the favourites to secure promotion from the division prior to the season kicking off. An expectation that hasn’t yet diminished, despite their recent form that has seen them fall away.
The Baggies were handed an opening day wake up call by Bolton Wanderers as they began their push for a Premier League return with a defeat. But they recovered quickly and instantly began to settle into the season as expected. Mercilessly dispatching goal after goal, Darren Moore had seemingly chosen his philosophy, to simply outscore those before them.
West Brom won seven of their next 11 games, adding just one defeat to their already forgotten opener. 31 goals from 12 games had left no one unaware of their strengths. The loan signings of Harvey Barnes from Leicester and Dwight Gayle from Newcastle had provided Albion with teeth, and they were sharp.
Their has been one issue nagging at this West Brom side all season long, an issue that was being masked by their attacking prowess. The Baggies have conceded 24 goals already this season, more than any other side in the top 15 of the division. Defensively they are poor, and Moore has so far failed to fix his sides biggest flaw.
Himself a defender in his playing days, Moore has come under fire from some corners of the Albion faithful as their back three show no sign of improvement. In almost every game recently, Moore has switched to a back four during the game but continues to persist with his set up of a back three to start.
He is yet to land on a system that works for Albion’s back line and it is beginning to cost them points. To outscore your opponent is a philosophy that has so far worked for Darren Moore, but West Brom are now experiencing the downside to that approach.
Just a Blip?
West Brom are winless in their last four, taking just one point from a possible 12, their worst run under Darren Moore. A run that began with defeat to Wigan, followed by a 4-1 thrashing at home by Frank Lampard’s Derby. They managed to scrape an uninspiring draw with Blackburn Rovers before last weekends defeat to bottom three side Hull.
Their performances against Derby and Hull in particular will be most concerning to Darren Moore. His side were blown away by fellow promotion pushers at home as Derby emphatically put them to the sword. Whilst struggling Hull City were given no challenge at all as the Baggies failed to muster any chances of note.
Top scorer Dwight Gayle has been missed as he suffered an injury but is due to return, once again giving Albion the tools to outscore the opposition. Though this will play to those who accuse West Brom of papering over the cracks and not dealing with their inability to defend. Moore must get his team organised or they are in danger of this bad run becoming more than a blip.
Whilst West Brom have lost three of their last four league games, Leeds United have lost just two all season. They are currently top of the Championship on 30 points and a win at The Hawthorns would take them eight points clear of their hosts.
Managed by former Argentina, Athletic Bilbao and Marseille boss Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds seem to have finally found the man to take then forward. Bielsa’s side have been impressive from the very start of this campaign and are expected to remain part of the promotion picture.
These two sides haven’t faced each other since January 2007 with West Brom winning each of the last three meetings. That run looks set to end based on current form but West Brom should not be underestimated. Despite their current issues, they are still promotion candidates. Darren Moore has been promoted out of this division four times as a player, it’s now time to show that his team can recover and prove that they too are up for the fight.
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