About an hour before kick-off on Saturday will be one of those moments where you always remember and left Albion fans questioning their eyes and ears. Why? Where? How? Saturday’s team saw a very narrow first 11 met with a raised eyebrow or two from the travelling Albion fans who had saw us hammered at the hands of title favourites, Manchester City, a few days ago. Surely things couldn’t be any worse? Pulis rang three changes with McAuley, Olsson and Yacob in for Lescott, Chester and McClean.
The first half passed quickly, but with little to show. Watford’s fast paced, passing game with high pressing was a masterclass in the way football should be played. Troy Deeney and Ighalo are what we’ve cried out for, a partnership that seemed to be attached by Bluetooth. A little rusty in the end, but fantastic to think about. If they can start finding the net a bit more, Watford should have no trouble staying in the division. Our first half was uneventful. That’s putting it lightly. Our first half was eventless. Unstylish. Panicky. Slow. Much like last season’s performances, Albion lacked creativity, spark and cutting edge. The first half, the midfield seemed to forget we play in stripes and not the bumblebee kit of the Hornets. Berahino, always bright, really can’t do the vital role if he’s only being feed scraps.
Maybe that’s putting it too nicely.
Berahino can’t score, if all the midfield provide him with is an empty plate. Would Sessegnon, Phillips or Praet provide that? I don’t know. The lack of pace and creativity in the midfield that 2,500 travelling fans pondered at 2pm, was unduly answered by 3.47pm. Gardner’s final ball was poor, and I seriously doubt his position in the team in the next month.
On the positive side of things, Albion looked organised at the back, the thing you’re always going to get from a Pulis programme. Think many would like to see Pocognoli back and, come on Tony… surely Gamboa can’t be that bad in training? Oh. Okay then!
After the break
Tony must have hoped his team talk would have jolted Albion’s statuesque performance into life like Dr Frankenstein and his cobbled together monster. Although rare in the modern game, I was worried about the lack of changes at half time. The fact that McClean and Mcmanaman weren’t brought on until the 70th and 87th minute respectively, shows that Tony is still toying with his best eleven. McClean was arguably the brightest player, running Watford’s right back ragged, much like Anya and Nyom had done to Morrison and Gardner in the first half.
The sign of Rondon’s big, strong powerful 20 minutes was definitely the cherry on the top of a very bland cake. His powerful, strong run from a long ball in the 63rd minute will set hands-a-rubbing at the prospect of the £12million Venezuelan can do against Chelsea and onwards. The lack of Brown Ideye on the bench, represents the one way sign out of the Hawthorns. Who next? We certainly need a wing back (one who isn’t a centre back) and a creative midfielder who doesn’t take taxis 300 miles back from a North East city. Ho’way indeed!
Albion’s one creative moment, the spark and our ace in the hole is set pieces. The main bulk of our goals last season came from set pieces. A short ball laid to McClean was quickly returned to its corner and Brunt whipped this in to compatriot GMac (He’s better than JT you know?) who headed it to Berahino. Surely, he’d put this away he was only three yards out. I jumped up. The bloke in row D jumped up. Tony Pulis jumped up. I’m mesmerised how Saido, Tottenham’s main target, missed it. But we have to stop relying on him to get ALL our goals. For a lad of 22, he’s taking a lot of pressure to score goals for a midfield that currently provide him with very little. If the team performs like it did today for the rest of the season (which I seriously doubt it will), I feel Berahino will leave come January. Maybe Rondon will be the one to kick the team into life? Maybe it will be McClean? Maybe it will be someone who currently plays elsewhere? I don’t think anyone out of B71 currently knows.
The match was uninspiring, but as an Albion fan, you always have to look for positives. I mean if you don’t, who knows what we’d do?
A clean sheet away from home. A point away from home. We’re up and limping, waiting to get that first eleven right for an easy three points against a Portuguese grump based in the posh end of the Big Smoke.
If you’ve scrolled to the bottom of this piece, without reading the middle (I mean everyone does it sometimes), my man of the match (or men and women and children and dogs) were the Albion fans. Other than the back four and the now beardless Myhill, the midfield was sluggish and uncreative, until the introduction of two former Wigan wingers. The front two were given little to do, much like former Spurs goalkeepers, Heurelho Gomes. “Expect big changes in the next 2 weeks, both incomes and outcomes.” said our head coach afterwards. Expect big changes in the line-up, I say. Gnabry will add pace, creative and drive to a starting eleven that lacked in all three. Rondon will do that same, once he can budge stalwart Lambert or fresh-faced Berahino.
Are you glad the season has started again? A hammering and a bore-no-score-bore-draw. It’s going to be a tough old season, but we haven’t given up yet. Hope you’re ready for the yellow-ticker based panic come teatime Deadline Day.
Come on you Baggies.
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