This weekends game against Norwich saw West Brom make their first start of the season with a line up of 4-4-2 instead of 4-5-1. Yes the Baggies may have gotten that illusive win they have been craving since the start of the season, but what did they sacrifice by losing that extra midfield man?
Well, simply put… Possession. In comparison to the 5 man midfield that faced Stoke a few weeks ago, where WBA enjoyed 58.9% of the possession, the 4 man midfield against Norwich only had 48.2% of the time on the ball. Granted the results didn’t reflect these stats with Albion losing out to Stoke but winning against Norwich, but surely against different opposition these stats would have been more relevant to the scoreline.
Last year West Brom’s 5 man midfield was what won them many of the games, they held possession, used the ball well and most of all the final balls through to Odemwingie were generally better and less rushed due to a patient build up. With only 4 men though now, it seems that although having 2 outlets up top is easier to find men, it means that their are less players in space available to find those outlets.
Maybe the Norwich game was a hint at what Roy Hodgson plans to do against the ‘lesser’ teams in the division, where having the ball all the time isn’t necessarily so important, there is always the possibility that this will be his tactic for games against the teams in the bottom half with the trusty 4-5-1 being brought back for the matches against the Premier Leagues bigger boys and with tough away games.
The possession and passing issue aside, it cannot be argued against that both Long and Odemwingie deserve a place in the starting line up, Long has had a great start to the season, netting 2 in his first 2 games and Odemwingies prowess from last season which bagged him 15 goals (not to mention the superb strikers instinct which got him the winner in this weekends game)means it can easily be argued that Roy Hodgson had little choice but to start them both when they were available. But I think we all know that is not how Uncle Roy works, he will have seen something in the two as a pairing, and at times they did work well together and look dangerous, this was the first game it has been tried and we look sure to see it happen again.
Its good to know, that WBA now have some choices going forwards, that they are no longer a one man attack, that Odemwingie is not the only man to be relied upon for goals. Shane Long can clearly play alone up front, and do so very well, as can Odemwingie. But now it seems that Hodgson has decided that them both playing together is the way to play for certain games this season. Next weeks game against Swansea is one very similar to this weeks, playing a newly promoted team away from home, it would be naive to expect anything other than the same starting line up, apart from maybe Chris Brunt replacing the constantly disappointing Jerome Thomas, but maintaining that 4-4-2 featuring the Long and Odemwingie forward pairing.