Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. We were told it’d be different this season. Things had changed behind the scenes at The Hawthorns. The players are happy again. Everything is back to normal. That’s until kick-off then on a Saturday afternoon. For a consecutive game, Albion served up utter dross under Alan Irvine’s leadership.
It came as no surprise to me as soon as I saw the XI Irvine had selected. I tweeted at the time that only Albion could sign a whole new team yet stick with the majority of the players who struggled so badly last season. Unfortunately I wasn’t wrong. If the team selection was questionable, Irvine’s tactics were simply shocking.
What other side plays 4-4-2 in the Premier League? Times have changed. Tactics have moved on. I could understand it if we had two powerful midfielders or two flying wingers. But we neither on Saturday. We had three central midfielders and a wide player who insists on playing through the middle.
Irvine may have felt his team selection was a positive one. Brown Ideye was given his home debut alongside Saido Berahino. Morrison was also recalled in the centre of midfield. Yet there was no place in the squad for Joleon Lescott or Stephane Sessegnon. Rumours circulated about a training ground bust-up between the two.
Another scandalous decision by Irvine was to select four, yes FOUR, defensive subs. Gamboa, Yacob, McAuley and Baird were all benched. It was going to be a long afternoon.
It didn’t take long for Everton to take the lead. Returning favourite Romelu Lukaku curled a beautiful shot around Ben Foster in the second minute following Jonas Olsson’s horrendous clearance. The error by the Swede – just like at Swansea – immediately put Albion on the back foot. Worse for Olsson, he never recovered from the error.
Albion tried to hit back. Ideye chested down for Berahino but his effort was deflected over for a corner. The Baggies pressed and pressed for an equaliser but too often crosses were over hit or final balls were misplaced – something which has happened far too often under Irvine.
Brunt was next to test his luck. But instead of aiming his shot across Howard’s goal, his effort fired into the side netting. Chance missed. Craig Gardner tried next with a free-kick that sailed into The Smethwick End. That was as good as it got in the first half.
After the break
If the first half was bad enough for Albion fans, it got worst after the break. I’m not sure what Irvine said at half time, but Albion lost their shape, there was no movement or ideas from Albion going forward. In fact, the second half was absolute dismal from the Baggies. I’d go as far as saying it was the worst 45 minutes I’ve watched since Bryan Robson’s final game in charge against Southend.
Albion’s performance was summed up in the 66th minute. Andre Wisdom allowed Kevin Mirallas to cut inside too easy. There was absolutely no challenge nor attempt to block the ball from the youngster. Jonas Olsson stuck out a leg but the Belgium international was allowed a shot that somehow squirmed under Ben Foster. It was a terrible error by the usually reliable stopper.
It was clear from the stands that a change was required before Everton’s second. Yet Irvine waited until the 70th minute to make a change! Blanco came on for the ineffective Brunt, who made matters worse by kicking the dugout as he trotted off. Samaras replaced the ineffective Ideye.
Seven minutes later Gamboa came on for Pocognoli – one of Albion’s bright lights on a dark afternon. It was too little, too late for Albion. Berahino and Samaras both went close but Albion ran out of ideas and resorted to long balls from defence. Is this the best that Irvine can do? After bringing 11 new players to the club we’re resorting to lumping the ball up to Samaras? Albion’s hierarchy called Irvine the ‘best coach in Britain’ when he was appointed. Not from what I’ve seen.
I saw one of my mates after the game who works on the backroom team for Everton. He actually thought that Albion had played well in the first half but despite firing numerous crosses into the box failed to create any chances. He was right about the crosses, time and time again Albion got into good positions but these were wasted by Brunt and Wisdom. I can think of two separate occasions when both got to the byline but one cross was massively overhit and the over hit into the ground and easily cleared.
I’m glad that I’ve given myself 24 hours to write this report. I was absolutely fuming last night after the game. I again took my frustrations to Twitter and called for Irvine to hand in his resignation tomorrow morning. When he was appointed I didn’t think he was the right man for the job. I’m confident that after just four games in charge I’ve been proved correct.
Things haven’t got better since last season. In fact, we’ve taken huge strides backwards. Yesterday highlighted the lack of pace and creativity in the side. In fact, only Pocognoli, Gardner, Morrison and Berahino showed any willingness or skill to succeed at this level.
Irvine is error which has to be replaced. He’s gone from managing Everton’s kids to our first team. At the time of the appointment, my mate questioned whether he’d have the tactical ability to manage in the Premier League. He was spot on. Why he waited until the 70th minute to make a change is beyond me. He should’ve changed the midfield at half time. Dorrans worked hard on the right but simply isn’t a winger. Gardner and Morrison were OK but had little movement ahead of them. Brunt came inside too often and failed to offer an outlet on the left. Brown Ideye looks a huge mistake. He hasn’t got one residing attribute that I can see why he’s worth £10m. Samaras and Blanco look one-paced and neither seem to be an improvement on what we had last season.
I know it’s early days and we played against a side who had just spent £27 million on a striker. But Everton hadn’t won a game this season. In fact, they hadn’t won a game in pre-season either. We made them look like world beaters. Irvine’s tactics are so out-dated that even a Sunday league side would’ve beaten Albion yesterday. He needed a good start to get the fans on side. In fact, it’s been a disaster. I’m sick of hearing about players that aren’t ready or fit to play. If that’s the case, why sign them in the first place? Lessons were supposed to be learnt from last season. Then we started on the back foot and the same thing has happened this season. We’re the only club that has to wait until after the international break to get the squad ready.
I hate to say it but if nothing changes quickly then we’re heading for relegation. Peace has got to admit he got things wrong. I’ve seen nothing from Irvine that suggests to me he’s the right man to lead Albion. When is the next win coming? We’re not going to get anything from Spurs next week playing like that. Where are the goals coming from? We’ve got zero creativity out wide. There’s no pace in the side. We had one shot on target yesterday and have only scored once from open play in FOUR games! Then there’s the defensive individual errors to try and eliminate.
It’s going to be a long season.
COME ON YOU BAGGIES!
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