Going into the game all of the attention was on Albion’s inability to strengthen the squad as the deadline for the transfer window ticked ever closer. Following Albion’s dour 0-0 draw at Everton the week before, the club again failed in the last seven days to add any new attacking options. French winger Morgan Amalfitano is expected to sign on loan – again – tomorrow, but he would be no help against a fluent Swansea City side.
Steve Clarke made three changes to the side which drew at Goodison with Boaz Myhill in for the injured Ben Foster, Scott Sinclair handed his full league debut and Nicolas Anelka back after compassionate leave.
Albion started the game with a good tempo and intensity. Mulumbu found Anelka down the right but, after beating the off-side trap, he was unable to find Long in the middle as Vorm dealt easily with his weak cross. Anelka was again to turn provider as his drilled cross found its way to Billy Jones in the area. However, the defender’s shot was blocked away for a corner.
James Morrison should’ve scored Albion’s first goal of the season in the 17minute when he rose unmarked to head Scott Sinclair’s free kick goalwards. Unfortunately, Shane Long was in the way of his header and the ball was cleared. Morrison really should’ve scored.
The miss was costly for Albion as Swansea scored minutes later. Liam Ridgewell was easily beaten by Hernandez down the left. The Spaniard crossed but found the head of Claudio Yacob. Instead of the midfielder clearing the ball, he headed it back towards Hernandez who found the on rushing Ben Davies, who fired an unstoppable volley past Myhill.
Until that point, Swansea had looked dangerous on the counter attack but it always looked like Albion who would open the scoring. The goal knocked the wind out of Albion’s sails and the Baggies struggled to find the rhythm they had started the game with.
It took Albion five minutes to find their feet again and should’ve equalised through Nicolas Anelka. Morrison found Long who placed an excellent through ball through for Anelka but the Frenchman pulled his effort wide when he really should’ve found the back of the net.
After the break
Graham Dorrans came on for the injured James Morrison at half time. I was surprised Clarke didn’t make more changes after watching the ineffective Shane Long struggle on the right wing.
Albion could’ve been two down moments into the second half when Long, covering for Jones, was unable to prevent Wayne Routledge being threaded in on goal. Thankfully for Albion, the winger’s heavy touch allowed Myhill to scramble the ball from his feet.
Routledge again had a chance to extend the Swans’ lead when he found himself through on goal. The winger dithered on the ball and allowed Gareth McAuley to make a fantastic goal-saving challenge before Routledge could take his shot.
The Baggies were running out of ideas and looked toothless up front. McAuley headed over from a Dorrans’ free kick as the half wore on.
Clarke made changes in the 75 minute as he searched for an equaliser. The ineffective Long remained on the pitch as Yacob and Sinclair made way for Markus Rosenberg and the hat-trick hero against Newport County, Saido Berahino.
The move back fired as Albion lost shape in midfield. Anelka was asked to drop into a midfield position leaving Mulumbu and Dorrans to protect the back four. But both were more intent on pushing forward leaving huge gaps in front of our defence. This was first highlighted when Hernandez cut inside and rattled the crossbar. Minutes later he found the back of the net.
Olsson failed to clear Michu’s cross and could only play the ball into the path of Hernandez who skipped past the Swede before firing past Myhill. Swansea played keep ball for the rest of the game.
After a positive start, it was another disjoined performance from the Baggies. We look a shadow of the side which started last season so well. It’s obvious that the players are lacking in both creativity and confidence. At the moment, we just don’t look like scoring or winning.
Beside the lack of confidence in the side, the questionable tactics by Steve Clarke certainly aren’t helping matters. Shane Long worked hard in an advanced role on the right but he’s never been, and never will be, a winger. It’s unfair both on him and the side to ask him to do a job there. On too many occasions he left Billy Jones exposed down the right. Going forward, he also offered little. What’s happened to the busy striker that did so well for us before Christmas last season?
The unfortunate injury to James Morrison also meant that Clarke had to call upon the ineffective Graham Dorrans. After an impressive pre-season, Dorrans has returned to suit and had an awful 45 minutes. Time and time again he failed to find a team mate with simple passes. His crosses were equally as disappointed – as too were his set pieces.
Yet Dorrans wasn’t the only one to underperform. Ridgewell was poor going forward, despite finding himself in good positions. Yacob and Mulumbu complimented each other so well last season. But with Mulumbu pushing forward this term, Yacob has been left isolated on numerous occasions in a deeper role.
Anelka also had a mixed game. In the first half he linked up well with his teammates and should’ve equalised. However, his preference to drop deep to get the ball hindered us. With him playing so deep, Albion had no one up front. No one to run behind Swansea’s defence and no one to spearhead the attack. As a result, the game became compact and Albion were unable to find a ‘killer’ through ball. The likes of Sinclair, Long, Morrison and Dorrans also offered no forward runs when Anelka did have the ball. As a result, time and time again, Anelka was picking the ball up on the half way line and making sidewards passing. Albion were going nowhere. After his no show against Southampton, I assume Anelka’s instructions to drop deep came from Clarke.
Despite this, I don’t think you can point the finger of blame at the head coach. Walking home, callers to WM were calling for his head. This was, after all, the man that led us to eighth last season. Do we really want one of the most respected and experienced coaches in the game removed after three games? Especially when he’s been let down so badly by the board?
Albion’s transfer policy this summer has been nothing short of embarrassing. The season is now three games old and we still haven’t completed our recruitment. Jeremy Peace’s strategy of only recruiting players available on a free transfer or a loan deal has dramatically backfired. Clarke has now been left frustrated, the fans are frustrated and the players clearly aren’t happy with the lack of new recruits.
If nobody else joins the squad before the window closes tomorrow night, Albion fans seriously have to question the senior leadership at the club. Let’s not forget this isn’t the first time Peace has left a head coach with a squad weaker than the one it finished the previous season with. Anybody remember when he left Tony Mowbray with Ishmael Miller and Roman Bednar as senior strikers?
His reluctance to splash the cash is both embarrassing and frustrating for Clarke and Albion fans alike and could also end with us having a very difficult season this campaign. At the moment, I’m struggling to find any positives.
Have your say on Albion's win here at Baggies Banter.