Last Saturday saw us put in what was, in patches, probably our best performance of the season. Unfortunately, we were playing an in-form Spurs side who eventually had too much quality for us in the final third.
Despite this defeat, the quality of the performance will have undoubtedly pleased Roy Hodgson as we now enter a run of three consecutive league games where we need to be looking to pick up points.
Considering the quality of the attacking players we were facing, we defended reasonably well throughout the 90 minutes and did not allow the likes of Gareth Bale to cause us too many problems. We were solid in midfield, and Shane Long once again worked incredibly hard up front to try and force their back four into errors.
There are rarely many candidates for Man of the Match after a home defeat, but this was not the case this week.
Steven Reid produced another solid display at right-back, performing so well against Bale during the first half that the Welsh winger swapped flanks at half-time to try and have a greater impact on the game.
Gareth McAuley and Jonas Olsson once again marshaled the back four superbly, winning almost every aerial challenge they contested against Emmanuel Adebayor and distributing the ball well from the back.
Youssouf Mulumbu scored his first goal of the season and looked back to his best, covering every blade of grass and using the ball sensibly to help start a number of attacks.
James Morrison justifiably received the official Man of the Match award, as he essentially ran the game against one of the best midfields in the country. His passing was outstanding and his ability to take the ball past players saw us create one or two chances, in the second half especially. I was one of many Albion fans who criticised Morrison earlier in the season, but his performances over the last couple of weeks are reminiscent of the displays he put in before he picked up his serious injury during our Premier League campaign under Tony Mowbray.
One player who did not perform particularly well and who came in for some criticism from supporters after the game was Simon Cox, who replaced Zoltan Gera after he went off with an injury which is expected to rule him out for the “foreseeable future”, according to the official website.
Whilst Cox’s work-rate and attitude is admirable, he looked off the pace on Saturday and was clearly a weak link in an attack which caused Spurs plenty of problems throughout the game. I prefer not to criticise players who are clearly working hard, but I think it is fair to say that Cox is unlikely to get much of a chance in the near future based on his performance on Saturday, and I personally would not be too surprised if he ends up leaving the club on loan in January.
This weekend sees us travel to Loftus Road to take on QPR. They have been fairly inconsistent this season, performing very well to beat the likes of Chelsea and Stoke City, but also losing to Wigan Athletic and Norwich City.
Although it is far too early in the season to talk about ‘must-win’ games, this is the kind of game which I’m sure Hodgson will have identified as one we really should be looking to win, and should certainly not be losing.
After our last two impressive performances, I don’t think many changes need to be made to the side. The only change I think we need to make is replacing Gera, with Hodgson having plenty of options in this respect.
There are no fewer than four players who can play just behind Long in a similar role to Gera, and Hodgson may also consider playing a 4-4-2 and handing Peter Odemwingie a return to the starting line-up.
In my opinion, Paul Scharner should return to the side in central midfield alongside Mulumbu, allowing Morrison to move further forward and play just behind Long. This would enable us to remain solid in midfield, but also means that we have one of our more gifted technically-gifted footballers in Morrison linking the play between the midfield and Long.
It won’t be an easy game, but hopefully we can produce a performance similar to our last two, as it may well see us pick up a positive result!
Who you pick to replace Zoltan Gera at QPR? Have your say here at Baggies Banter.