Darren Moore is doing a very good job of managing expectations at West Brom as he looks to navigate a super competitive Championship campaign. Ten-man Albion left it late against Sheffield Wednesday at The Hawthorns, equalising in the last few minutes to maintain their push for an immediate return to top-flight football. Moore’s side are now unbeaten in nine games, applying pressure to Norwich and Leeds in the early promotion picture.
West Brom were named as strong favourites to gain promotion before a ball had been kicked in what promised to be one of the most competitive Championship seasons to date. Keeping hold of a majority of their squad following relegation coupled with good business in the loan market was breeding expectancy around The Hawthorns.
The Baggies have seen their side escape this division on four previous occasions before their prolonged Premier League stay that lasted eight consecutive campaigns, leaving most in a mood of almost certainty heading into the season, despite the relatively new, highly-competitive nature of England’s second division; a league that now boasts real quality in comparison to the last time West Brom were featured.
They are in the mix at the mid-way point of the season, sitting in third place. Although promotion is the target, Moore is making a point of managing expectations at West Brom after his side have been widely praised for their newfound, exciting football.
West Brom currently hold their lofty position in the table, despite conceding more goals than anyone else in the top half besides Norwich and Aston Villa. Yet, 53 goals thus far has propelled the Baggies to a goal fuelled push for promotion. Moore has made the decision to attack this campaign with his clinical front four of Dwight Gayle, Jay Rodriguez, Harvey Barnes and Matt Phillips. It’s a far cry from the Tony Pulis style; a style that had disgruntled many visitors to The Hawthorns in recent years.
Their philosophy of aggressive attack made for some eye-watering results in the early stages of the season, including a 4-3 win against Norwich at Carrow Road and a 7-1 demolition of QPR at The Hawthorns. West Brom then hit a dip in form October, forcing Moore to change his system. The Baggies have since tightened up, keeping two clean sheets in their last three having only managed one in 22 beforehand.
Following their run of four without a win in October, including a 4-1 home drubbing at the hands of Derby County, Moore changed formation from three at the back to 4-3-3. The Baggies looked instantly more comfortable with a back four. They began their current unbeaten run in emphatic fashion against Leeds, beating Marcelo Bielsa’s impressive side 4-1 at The Hawthorns. It was arguably West Brom’s best performance of the season so far.
Moore continues to show tremendous confidence in his full-backs as well as his side’s ability on the ball. The West Brom wide men are not asked to track back. Instead, they lie in wait for their defenders to win the ball and shift it quickly for the front three to pounce. This new approach has so far been fruitful for the Baggies as they begin to look like strong contenders for promotion.
Can They Maintain the Charge?
Whilst managing expectations at West Brom, Moore has kept his feet firmly on the ground. His very nature is calm and collected, often referred to as a gentle giant, but he has instilled a fight into the Baggies that was missing, particularly under Alan Pardew. Many of his squad endured a horrendous campaign last season, including a club record winless run.
Finally, closing up the gaping holes in the back line will put West Brom on a new level. Getting through the January window without a major loss will be key but the Baggies should be in the mix come May. West Brom fans believe they should have enough to return to the promised land at the first time of asking, but the difficulty of this league should not be underestimated. Whilst they are amongst the leading group, there is a long way to go.
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