HomeOTHEREPLRoy's West Brom | Pragmatic & Direct

Roy’s West Brom | Pragmatic & Direct

When Chris Waddle offered West Brom his sympathy on live TV yesterday I shouted obscenities at the screen and told him to never patronise us again.  If you’re reading this Chris, forgive my overreaction, we’d just let in a second late decisive goal within a week and I was understandably irate.

Credit to Roy Hodgson though that I was as irate as I was. Thanks to him my expectations in the team have increased; the mental goalposts have been moved. Waddle, singer/songwriter and part-time commentator, kept describing the boys in red as “well-drilled”, “tight” and (pinch yourself), “organised.” Watching those first two games of the season, I am disappointed with zero points, and yet last season I would’ve been over the moon coming out with just -2 goal difference.

Hodgson has successfully remodelled the club in his own image and the newfound ability to produce two defending banks of four is as alien as it is rewarding. It has been obvious in these first two games that the wizened manager has patiently drilled some much-needed simplicities of the game into the players. Even Tamas looks like he knows what he’s doing.

Before the Chelsea match, the thought of Anelka and Malouda running at Shorey and Reid struck fear into me. Luckily, Andre Villas-Boas unexplainably started Solomon Kalou and his Ronaldo circa ‘02 duckbill haircut ahead of Malouda. Unluckily, he realised Kalou is essentially just a large boy in a small boy’s shirt after only 30 minutes, and brought the Frenchman on. But throughout the game, Brunt and Morrison were fantastic defensively, as were Mulumbu and Scharner in the centre.

Successful passes: 55 Unsuccessfull passes: 10
Successful passes: 21 Unsuccessful passes: 15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Brunt’s chalkboards for the two games at Stamford Bridge we can see this year he covered much more of the pitch, and although incredibly he was less successful than last year and made less passes overeall, importantly he attempted a lot more passes into Chelsea’s box.

No doubt we gave a much better account of ourselves at Stamford Bridge this year than last. Statistically however, we had only 33.5% possession compared to 40.4% in the 6-0 defeat. Our passing accuracy is down too, from 86% to 74%. The reason behind these drops is simple; Hodgson has got the team playing much more directly. That is not to say the team are playing long ball, rather that they have cut out playing dangerous triangles in their own third. Instead, when we did get the ball against Chelsea (and Man Utd) the team struck out in swift counter-attacks. It is clever football and it is Premier League football.

Last season I would have felt a knowing resignation as Malouda swept in that second goal. I would’ve known the goal was coming, and therefore somewhat sadistically I would’ve have welcomed it. This season, it was much more painful to watch. The West Brom team of 2010-11 were the devil-may-care, caution-to-the-wind rogues of the Premier League. We picked up the most points from losing positions, and it felt like we gave away the most from winning ones too.

With exciting and creative midfielders, goals in abundance, and a defence that preferred to Cruyff-turn a striker in the box rather than lump it into touch, the yo-yo club had created the perfect yo-yo squad. Every game was a g-force rollercoaster and once everyone recovered from their early love affair with Ian Holloway’s plucky seasiders, they realised if you wanted drama, West Brom were the team to watch. The proverbial season-long yo-yo was swapped for a 90 minute one and every week we watched Di Matteo take another throw.

If the first two games of this year are anything to go by, those heady days of headlessness are behind us. Hodgson has firmed up the defence, and is still in pursuit of another centre back. Most importantly, the team is defending from the front. Playing Scharner instead of Dorrans in the middle highlights the new pragmatism. It will take time to see whether any creative penetration is lost from this decision but so far the speed and sincerity of counter-attacks has improved. Indeed it will be interesting to see if Hodgson, in order to pick the lock against weaker teams, decides to find place for a Dorrans or a Morrison in the middle.

It is testament to Hodgson as well that he is starting the personified paradox that is Somen Tchoyi. If Roy was intent on playing mundane percentage-football the Cameroonian enigma would be nowhere near the first XI.  The manager’s ethos appears to be; all things in moderation, including moderation.

Last year Albion were the lovable overachieving minnows, but Hodgson has been brought in for consolidation. As exciting as it is being everybody’s second team, it’s more exciting building something tangible for the future. This season Mr Waddle, we don’t need your sympathy.

Matt Wilson
Matt Wilsonhttp://twitter.com/#!/mattwilsonsg
I'm Matt, a life-long south coast Baggie who may not have the accent but certainly has the passion. Follow my sarcastic mumblings @mattianwilson if that's your thing.
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