SussexBaggie speaks… then and now

Another impressive performance on Saturday saw us come away with a creditable point from a tough trip to Stoke, but it could and should have been all three.

After four points from games against Manchester United and early-season pacesetters Arsenal, the sell-out contingent of travelling Albion fans would have been heading to the Britannia unusually confident of continuing our recent form against one of our bogey sides.

Only three superb saves from Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic to deny Morgan Amalfitano and Stephane Sessegnon twice prevented us from leaving Staffordshire with three points.

The last of those three saves came at the start of injury-time, as Sessegnon somehow sent his close-range effort straight at the goalkeeper after going on an excellent run which took him past three Stoke defenders.

We were also denied a stonewall penalty when the outstanding Youssouf Mulumbu had his foot trodden on by Charlie Adam as he took the ball past him in the penalty area.

Referee Howard Webb did not have the best view of the incident through a crowded penalty area, but his linesman down the right-hand side would have had an excellent view of the foul and chose not to alert Webb to it.

As much as it was disappointing to only draw the game after creating the better of the chances, any away point is a good one and a draw also extends our unbeaten run to five games, the longest unbeaten run we have had in the league under Steve Clarke.

With this in mind, do we look a better team this season than we did at any stage last season?

We obviously don’t have an almost unplayable striker in the mould of Romelu Lukaku, but we certainly have more options on the bench than we did last season.

A quick look at our bench on Saturday showed Chris Brunt, James Morrison, Nicolas Anelka, Shane Long and Matej Vydra. How many of these players would have been almost guaranteed a place in any previous Albion side?

Clarke has come in for a lot of criticism from supporters since the turn of the year, but he now deserves some credit.

He has put together a squad full of experienced attacking players who are capable of producing moments of magic to win games, but has retained the defensive solidity which made us so tough to beat during Roy Hodgson’s time in charge.

Our early season form was frustrating – particularly the home defeats against Southampton and Swansea – but would we have lost these games if the likes of Sessegnon and Amalfitano had already been at the club?

Based on their performances since arriving, I would like to think we would have got at least four points from those two games.

Our next game sees us visit Anfield to take on Liverpool this Saturday.

Our recent record against Liverpool has been superb, with us winning our last three league games against them and our last two at Anfield.

However, they are a totally different proposition this season with the in-form Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez forming an exceptional understanding up front and helping them make an impressive start to the season.

Despite this, we have no reason to go there short of confidence. Our performances against the ‘big’ clubs this season have been outstanding, and there will once again be absolutely no pressure on us to go there and get a result.

If we can go there and produce another encouraging attacking performance whilst continuing to look solid at the back, we could surprise everyone again as we did just a few weeks ago at Old Trafford.

Boing Boing!

Do you think Albion are better equipped this season? Have your say here at Baggies Banter