The key to a summer signing made by any club is that they fit into the style of play and formation favoured by the Head Coach, and West Brom are no different to this rule. Steve Clarke’s favoured formation is without doubt a 4-2-3-1 and it proved to be hugely successful in the opening half of the season for The Baggies.
This formation was so effective because of the options available to Steve Clarke on the wings. His preferred duo were Zoltan Gera and Peter Odemwingie, who provided Albion with plenty of pace and creativity on the wings. Gera and Odemwingie were capable of making something out of nothing, be it with a run and cross, a defence-splitting pass or a magical goal. Another benefit to Clarke of these two players on the wing was that they were capable of switching sides, giving Albion a good variety to their play.
With the creativity and threat of Gera and Odemwingie, plus James Morrison behind either Shane Long or Romelu Lukaku, West Brom’s defence was allowed to focus on just that rather than being relied upon to contribute regularly to Albion’s attacking game. With Claudio Yacob and Youssuff Mulumbu in front of them, Albion were very solid in the first half of the season. Additionally, this also aided Albion’s attacking game further as from that solid base they could counter attack with devastating effect.
The statistics up until the end of January demonstrate just how effective this formation and the personnel involved was whilst the statistics post January when Gera and Odemwingie weren’t available for different reasons show how Graham Dorrans and Chris Brunt couldn’t replicate the roles played by Gera and Odemwingie. The fact that Dorrans and Brunt didn’t take to the wide roles as well as Gera and Odemwingie meant more reliance was placed upon the full backs, in the 2nd half of the season this was mostly Billy Jones and Liam Ridgewell, to push further forward to provide width meaning that the defence was left more exposed.
Goals Scored up to February: 34
Goals conceded to February: 31
Goals scored after February: 19
Goals conceded after February: 26
With Odemwingie set to leave the club this summer and Zoltan Gera still recovering from a 2nd cruciate ligament injury in two years mean that West Bromwich Albion certainly need to add some quality on the wings. One of the names they have been linked with is former Swansea man Scott Sinclair. I feel that Sinclair, a player of great skill and quality, would be a superb addition. If you compare Sinclair’s statistics from his first season in the Premier league with Swansea to what Odemwingie and Gera gave to West Brom last season, it is clear Sinclair could provide the same impetus.
Whilst it is important to note that the statistics are somewhat diluted by the fact that Sinclair appeared in all 38 Premier League in the 2011/12 for Swansea whilst Odemwingie and Gera’s did not appear after January as mentioned. Sinclair shares similarities with Odemwingie in terms of his dribbling game, whilst he has a lesser crossing accuracy than Gera but he did put in more crosses than the Hungarian. He had 8 goals throughout the season, which is one less than the combined efforts of Odemwingie and Gera this season which shows he could certainly match them in that department.
Of course another area where West Brom will need to make additions in the summer is up front as Marc Antoine Fortune has been released for the time being, the club is willing to listen to offers for Markus Rosenberg and of course West Brom’s top scorer from last season Romelu Lukaku has returned to Chelsea after his hugely successful loan spell. Today it was revealed that Albion look set to step up their interest in Wigan’s Arouna Kone. For The Baggies to be able to sign Kone they would in all probability have to break their record transfer fee to sign him. With that in mind, how do his statistics compare to Lukaku’s?
Lukaku is clearly superior to Kone in terms of goals scored and minutes per shot on target, with a much better chance conversion rate. But arguably the key stat for a striker other than goals is the clear cut chance conversion rate, where there is only a 1 per cent difference between Lukaku and Kone. Whilst Albion are highly unlikely to ever get someone like Lukaku again, Kone would certainly be a promising option.
With greater strength in both wings and up front by signing the right players for these roles, baggies fans will be expecting to see a better calibre of football played, and a much bigger gap between goals scored and conceded. As with any team in the Premier League, only time will tell whether this will be enough to start challenging for a place in Europe, as well as coveted domestic silverware.
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