|West Bromwich Albion 1 v 1 Ipswich Town|
Saturday, 9th March 2019 Kick-off 15:00
If We Can’t Beat Ipswich Next Week, We Don’t Deserve to Go Up - Notes for West Bromwich Albion
Friday, 8th Mar 2019 10:40 by HarryFromBath
HarryFromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Saturday’s game at the Hawthorns by delving into their forums.
“Argh, the agony and ecstasy of this season”, “I think it will be the play-offs, lads”, “Play-offs at best, where we will be out-thought and outfought”, “The play-off places are looking like a mountain at the moment”, “My dad always used to say, ‘Albion always let you down’. It’s unfortunately in our DNA.”
Albion may be sitting fourth in the table and firmly in the promotion hunt but Baggies fear that their campaign could yet go off the rails. Poor home form and chastening defeats in the last two games to promotion rivals Sheffield United and Leeds have left many feeling that there is a mountain to climb.
“Anyone still confident of finishing in the play-offs after that?”, “We have made a real pig’s ear of this season given the squad we have got”, “We have had about three games all season where we have performed well for a team with the supposed quality which we have, and that’s not good enough.”
“I am dreading next season”, “Get ready for a long period as Championship also-rans.” Many players from Albion’s high-calibre squad will depart this summer as parachute payments diminish if the club do not bounce straight back into the Premier League. “I dread to think where we go from here.”
“I gave up on the automatic places after losing to Sheffield United. After tonight at Leeds I’m worried that we won’t make the play-offs. Individual player quality has carried the manager this season, but we have been poor for the vast majority of it, and it looks like the players are now giving up on him.”
“Darren is really struggling now. It’s a shame but this will all end in tears and soonish, I think. Too much tinkering and the players don’t seem up for it, a bit like last season really”, “It’s too late now but he shouldn’t be in charge. He is totally clueless tactically. How long until he changes anything?”
“We have the tools, but it’s down to how Darren uses them.” The 44-year-old replaced Alan Pardew last April as interim manager with the side all but relegated from the top flight, and he was given the role permanently a month later as the team enjoyed a late-season renaissance under his guidance.
“The longer he goes on, the more he will ruin his legend status.” Moore is still regarded with great affection by fans but he has been increasingly criticised both for his poor tactical awareness and his inability to make the most of what many fans believe to be the most talented squad in the division.
“Moore’s tactical weaknesses are regularly exposed. His sides have lots of fight and a never-say-die attitude, but I’m still not convinced he has the ability to make the best strategic of tactical decisions on a regular basis”, “The problems are glaringly obvious to everyone but still no changes are made.”
“Darren doesn’t react to the state of the game in front of him”, “He never makes attacking, dynamic switches. He will only go for the defensive tactical tweaks which never aid our attacking play”, “To not change things when the same problems are happening again and again at home is very poor.”
“How Moore has managed to find and stick with a system that brings the worst out of every single one of our top players is a skill in itself”, “We haven’t put in a properly good 90-minute display this season and I have seen no evidence of a coherent tactical philosophy. We literally have no Plan B.”
The Loss of Harvey Barnes
“We look nothing like a team that is capable of deserving automatic promotion. We always knew that the loss of Harvey Barnes was going to cost us because he could unlock a defence, whereas it’s all one-dimensional and we look out of ideas it if fails”, “Repeat this mantra: We are not going up.”
Harvey Barnes scores his side's second goal
The 21-year-old joined Albion on loan from Leicester in July and became a key part of a dynamic and fluid attacking trio along with fellow strikers Dwight Gayle and Jay Rodriguez. Leicester’s decision to terminate his loan with immediate effect in January disrupted the balance of Albion’s attacking play.
“What a difference Barnes made. Up front without him we have no creativity or quality on the ball”, “Many feared the wheels would fall off after losing him and it seems to be true. He gave us a bit of magic and dynamic running with the ball, creating a goal out of nothing. We lost a lot when he left.”
Things Falling Apart
“Nothing has changed all season. We have good players in a broken system that doesn’t even make sense”, “We have relied on individuality for too long and are being found out and exposed”, “Does anyone have a clue what tactics we are playing to win this game, any semblance of a game plan?”
“Our shape and system are a mess”, “We are too easy for decent sides to play against. We look like a one-trick pony with no other ideas”, “We seem to pass the ball for the sake of passing with no pace, accuracy or purpose”, “We are so slow at deciding to pass, the lack of tempo in possession kills us.”
“Is there a new rule that we’re not allowed to run?”, “We don’t attack in numbers, only one or two at a time”, It’s the same old problem, we can’t close down. Look at the Leeds players in contrast to ours, they were straight on us with no room at all. We gave their players at least 10 yards of space.”
Fans’ fears were well-founded when the starting XI at Leeds (above) was announced. “What on earth is that side? A flat back four with Tosin Adarabioyo at left-back? God help us”, “It was a disaster. Our best forward was out wide, our midfield overrun with a centre-back hung out to dry at left-back.”
“With the players available that’s a very poor side”, “It was like we were playing with a back seven with three up front. There were acres of space between them.” Albion have struggled lately against teams who press high up the pitch and they were unable to establish any rhythm at Elland Road.
Keeper Sam Johnstone divides opinion and is widely seen as inconsistent, whereas Ahmed Hegazi is widely praised for his solid defending and leadership. Fellow centre-half Craig Dawson has regressed this season in the eyes of many, with his lack of technique and ability on the ball often highlighted.
Mason Holgate’s arrival on loan from Everton in January has solved a problem at right-back, while Kieran Gibbs has been praised for his consistency as an attacking outlet at left-back, especially with a direct winger ahead of him. Adarabioyo’s selection highlighted a lack of back-up options at full-back.
“Our midfield is non-existent, providing nothing for the front three”, “We need a midfielder with the creativity to link with the attack”, “We look immobile and lacking in creativity in midfield”, “A very slow midfield again. Gareth Barry and Jake Livermore are such slow, plodding players in the middle.”
Moore was heavily criticised by fans for repeating the mistake of starting Barry and Livermore both against Sheffield United and Leeds where their lack of pace was exposed by both Yorkshire teams’ intensity and energy. The manager decided against risking youth product Sam Field in either game.
Teenage youth product Rekeem Harper has played well in the advanced midfield role but many feel that he needs to be rested. Stefan Johansen arrived in January on loan from Fulham but has yet to reach match fitness. The absence of veteran playmaker Wes Hoolahan has also baffled many fans.
“We have to sacrifice one of our strikers for a proper wide-left winger or midfielder.” With Barnes departed, the decision to switch Dwight Gayle to a wide role has frustrated supporters. He is widely seen as the best finisher and the lack of rotation with the front three has also diminished his threat.
“There is a real lack of invention in attack with too many floated balls from central areas from which we will never score.” Many would prefer to see Jay Rodriguez in a wider role. Two wingers did arrive in January to replace Barnes, but Jacob Murphy and Jefferson Montero have not been as effective.
“We seem to lack character. There is something missing from this bunch which most promoted sides have, maybe a togetherness. We have real quality compared to our rivals, but lack the togetherness and desire a promoted team will often have”, “Norwich have the mental strength we are lacking.”
“I am gobsmacked at how poor our home form as become”, “Our home form will ensure we have no chance of an automatic place”, “The players seem to go through the motions at times, and especially at home”, “Our home tactics haven’t worked since October, hence only winning three in 13 games.”
Leeds 4 – 0 West Brom
“This has been coming all season”, “Leeds’s tempo and pressing were absolutely ruthless, something we have been poor at dealing with”, “We were played off the park and looked intimidated by them”, “Our defence and midfield were getting annihilated”, “It could and should have been more.”
Pablo Hernandez scored after just 16 seconds as Leeds dispatch the Baggies with ease. The hosts doubled their lead on 28 from Patrick Bamford’s composed finish and his deflected shot on 63 made it 3-0. Ezgjan Alioski's tap-in in second-half stoppage time made the score more emphatic for Leeds.
“Another joke of a performance and another game where we haven’t turned up”, “The Leeds players were running around like lunatics, our players were jogging around in first gear”, “I was embarrassed to watch this, the midfield was an utter shambles”, “That was the definition of a chastening defeat.”
West Brom 0 – 1 Sheffield United
“A horrible game and a horrible set of Championship results today”, “One of the poorest displays I have seen, absolutely clueless from start to finish”, “Goodbye to automatic promotion. We lacked character despite our undoubted quality. The Blades were a good outfit who all knew their jobs.”
“Sheffield United are just outnumbering us in midfield.” Midfielder Kieran Dowell won the game for the Blades when he headed in Martin Cranie's right-wing cross on 14 minutes at the end of a flowing counter-attack. “They attacked and defended in force whereas we only went up a couple at a time.”
“A pathetic performance”, “You won’t see a more comfortable 1-0 win than this, we were schooled”, “We didn’t seem to have a plan when we got the ball. It looked as if they had an extra player”, “We did not get a foothold in the game. We had the better players, they looked a more organised team.”
The starting XI (above) had most fans’ preferred back four while Matt Phillips made a first start after recovering from an ankle injury, but the Blades controlled the midfield. “It was so obvious it wasn’t working in midfield. All game we were overrun. Playing it centrally put ourselves under pressure.”
QPR 2 – 3 West Brom
“We don’t make this look easy, do we?”, “We got the job done, it wasn’t always convincing but we scored when we needed to”, “A vital win, but I’m less confident of getting automatic promotion than I was before kick-off”, “I am a wreck after that. The old ticker really can’t take much more of this.”
The Baggies went ahead after just five minutes when Jefferson Montero fired in from six yards on his first start since joining on loan from Swansea in January. Luke Freeman equalised on 35 with a near-post strike, before Jacob Murphy's breakaway goal on 61 minutes restored the visitors' advantage.
Tomer Hemed equalised from penalty spot on 75 for Rangers, but the West Londoners were reduced to 10 men following an injury to Freeman with all three substitutions already made, and they were made to play when Jake Livermore struck West Brom’s winner deep into second half stoppage time.
Moore rotated his line-up (above) for this game and included all four January loan signings in what many felt was an erratic display. “We ran the show for 25 minutes then ludicrously decided to sit off a team with five losses in a row. It gave them the confidence to attack us for most of the game.”
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“Not only is Sam Johnstone a poor shot-stopper, he doesn’t instil much confidence in his backline.” The 25-year-old keeper arrived from Manchester United in July having played on loan at Aston Villa last season. “He has shown better command and authority of his area lately but must keep this up.”
Sam Johnstone (Aston Villa)
“Johnstone has prevented goals with good saves but he hasn’t done his job effectively enough so far this season”, “He doesn’t command his area, he’s not proactive in closing down the ball and he could have done better with some shots which have beaten him”, “He stays on the line too much for me.”
“Kieran Gibbs has looked lively this season and has been a consistent performer at this level.” The 29-year-old former Arsenal left-back “is excellent going forward but there are still question marks over him switching off defensively”, “His ability to go wide or cut inside gives us a huge advantage.”
“Gibbs is far too good for this division and it shows. His touch and technique are miles better than average”, “He gets forward and creates extra danger and extra options from the flank. He’s good on the ball technically and is frequently able to get goal-side of opponents and hit dangerous crosses.”
“It appears by consensus that the right-back issue is resolved with Mason Holgate’s arrival.” The 22-year-old January loan arrival from Everton “has been superb since he signed. He gives real balance at the back and is a constant outlet on the wing”, “He has a fiery side to him and he just loves a tackle.”
“Holgate is a good player but perhaps a bit too passionate but then again that is what makes him the player he is”, “He does have a bit of an attitude and must work on his decision-making”, “He’s a tidy player who tackles well and has nice touch, skill and pace. He’s more defensive-minded than Gibbs.”
“Tosin Adarabioyo struggles at full-back and looks uncomfortable venturing up the field. He doesn’t have the pace or skill to beat a man.” The 21-year-old loanee from Manchester City “is constantly played out of position, I feel for the lad. He is every bit a centre-half who has been hung out to dry.”
“Tosin’s positional play at centre-back is outstanding. He’s good in the tackle and in the air and he is very comfortable on the ball”, “He reads the game well and his good positioning leads to plenty of interceptions”, “A decent player but the one bloke you don’t want directing him is Darren Moore.”
Kyle Bartley (Swansea)
“In the main, Kyle Bartley points and mutters.” The 27-year-old ex-Swansea centre-half “is the worst centre-half we have had for a long time”, “He relies on shirt-pulling and wrestling to contain players. His passes lead to opponents’ goals and he has a terrible attitude of blaming others for his failings.”
“Leeds’ energy and movement were Craig Dawson’s worst nightmare.” The 28-year-old ex-Rochdale centre-half “has gradually declined in form as the season has gone on. He struggles to read games or movement, and looks a nervous wreck with the ball at his feet but we insist on giving him the thing.”
“Dawson’s greatest strengths are his physicality and willingness to put his face in where it hurts, but even those attributes are on the wane”, “He has been solid when asked to play a no-nonsense role in a flat four with a defensive screen in front of him. He’s terrible with quick players running at him.”
“There is little I will give [former manager] Tony Pulis credit for, but signing Hegazi has to be one in his plus column.” The 28-year-old ex-Al Ahly centre-back and Egypt international “is in the form of his life despite us being porous at the back”, “He wins everything and carries the rest of the team.”
Ahmed Hegazy (West Bromwich Albion) and Chris Mepham (Brentford) clash after the final whistle
“Hegazi is not a ball-player, he’s an out-and-out defender and a very good one at that”, “He’s at his best when he concentrates on clearing, heading or hoofing it. Trying to turn him into a ball-player is a ridiculous idea”, “He may not be our best player but he is certainly our most important player.”
“The Leeds game was the wrong one for James Morrison. He hasn’t enough energy or bottle and we needed a fighter in midfield.” The 32-year-old former Boro man came off the bench at Elland Road having recovered from an ankle injury. “He looked lost, not tackling and only marking empty space.”
“Morrison has one good game then four anonymous ones”, “He has the ability to start moves and an eye for a pass which others don’t have, but his days of attacking pushes behind the forward lines are gone”, “He can link-up with the front three or find a killer pass to unlock defensively minded teams.”
“Sam Field is a decent player who will show in time he is truly up to the task.” The 20-year-old youth product “protects the defence and keeps it simple. He’s a good tackler with both decent passing and awareness but his confidence was hit last year by the previous manager who hung him out to dry.”
“Field was hiding a bit and playing it safe at QPR. He didn’t put himself about enough. He was weak and slow and his passing was one-paced and cautious”, “He has a decent left foot and footballing brain”, “He just hid behind the strikers and didn’t try to dictate the QPR game like we know he can.”
“Wes Hoolahan is the only midfielder we have with something different.” The 36-year-old former Canary “is a technical, tidy player but he’s totally ineffective now as he has no legs or strength. That zip of pace that used to get him away from players has gone, even if he does have nous and guile.”
Wes Hoolahan (Norwich City) trips McGoldrick
“Stefan Johansen has been awful. I expected more from him when he signed.” The 28-year-old loan arrival from Fulham “hasn’t got going yet and a month after signing he’s still struggling to get game time”, “He’s like a pit bull in midfield who gives his all, and is not afraid to take a hit for the team.”
“Johansen is probably the most attacking central midfielder at the club and was pivotal for Fulham last season. We need to find a way to incorporate him”, “He has looked off the pace, but he’s more than a huffer and puffer and he is probably our best option to link-up with the attacking players.”
“Leeds was a game too far for Rekeem Harper.” The 18-year-old youth product “looked out of his depth and took far too long to get started”, “He is a luxury with nice touches but he was slow around the field”, “He’s our liveliest midfielder and a good creative outlet who looks for imaginative passes.”
“Harper’s best games for us are when Gareth Barry pulls the strings. When Barry struggles, Harper runs himself into the ground trying to cover for him”, “He uses his strength and pace to beat the first man”, “He looks a bit languid in his running but is often the first to support attacks on the counter.”
“Jake Livermore is a liability all over the pitch.” The 29-year-old ex-Hull man and one-time Town loanee “has no mobility and will take three touches before he moving the ball, normally sideways or backwards”, “He’s too slow and cumbersome to get around opponents and he isn’t intelligent enough to read dangerous situations.”
“Livermore is just a body on the pitch. He never influences or dominates the middle”, “He needs to be moved on. He’s such a Tony Pulis player, a hard worker with limited technical ability and lacking the pace to recover”, “He is what he is, a solid workhorse who is never going to be anything else.”
“It looks like we have been worked out with Barry in the team.” The 38-year-old ex-Everton holding midfielder “runs the show against poor opponents where his decision making is superb. In the higher tempo games, his passing is terrible because he is unable to keep up with the pace of the game.”
“As good as Barry is, he can’t get back in position if we lose possession”, “He only suits games where we are in control of possession or sitting deep absorbing pressure where he can use his positioning and help keep our composure. In open games against teams who move the ball quickly he’s horrific.”
Wingers and Wide Midfielders
“On his day, Matt Phillips can be the most dangerous winger in the division.” The 27-year-old former QPR man “is direct and energetic, with the ability to wrong-foot defenders”, “He’s genuinely exciting when on form and could be in a top-six side. He’s not afraid to take on defenders and get past them.”
“Phillips can cause problems, but he can’t play with his back to goals. He’s much better when coming wide and running with the ball”, “He’s wasted up top, he needs to be running from deep or the most advanced of the middle three”, “He’s a confidence player who is capable of opening up a defence.”
Jonas Knudsen v Matt Phillips
“Kyle Edwards isn’t a game-changing substitute.” The 21-year-old youth product “has both pace and youth but lacks physicality and games seem to pass him by”, “He’s quite direct but takes a second or two after receiving the ball to make a decision, which often leads to him being caught in possession.”
“I’m still not sure about Jefferson Montero but he has looked lively when coming on.” The 29-year-old Swansea loanee and Ecuador international “is a bench option at best. He has pace and can go past defenders but he doesn’t make great decisions and lacks quality”, “He blows hot and cold.”
“Montero flatters to deceive. He has chances to pick out the right passes and misses them”, “He gets the opposition on the back foot and brings us into more dangerous areas”, “This guy needs to come on after 70 minutes in virtually every game. He’s about the best impact sub you will get at this level.”
“Murphy is prepared to take his man on and his delivery from open play is quite good.” The 24-year-old Newcastle loan signing and one-time Canary “is starting to build a good partnership with Holgate on the right”, “He carries us up the pitch but his finishing is inconsistent and his crossing is terrible.”
“I worry about Murphy in physical games against strong defenders”, “His main asset is a turn of pace which gets him past full-backs and he puts in useful low cutbacks across the box. He needs people to anticipate and time their runs”, “On a negative note, he has to be relieved of taking any set pieces.”
“Let’s hope that Hal Robson-Kanu has his one in 10 performance but I think that happened three or four games back.” The 29-year-old ex-Reading winger or striker “puts in a shift and offers physicality which we don’t have in the front three. The problem is that he only turns up once in a blue moon.”
Matthew Pennington holds back Hal Robson-Kanu
“Robson-Kanu has no attributes other than a fat backside which hits the deck many more times than he miscontrols the ball and that takes some doing”, “I’m happy when he lumbers on with 85 minutes played, as it means I won’t have to watch him lumbering around on the pitch for an hour and a half.”
“Jay Rodriguez really frustrates me.” The 29-year-old ex-Southampton man divides opinion. “his link-up play and inability to pass to a teammate has been woeful for months. He has poor movement and anticipation”, “There’s no fear picking up an injury because he hides from any physical challenges.”
“Rodriguez puts in as much if not more effort than anyone else in the team”, “He gets a fair amount of unwarranted stick because he reacts to play rather than anticipating it”, “He has been brilliant for us. He doesn’t hide, works hard and has scored a ton of goals. We really ought to be praising him.”
“Gayle is a better finisher than Rodriguez, there’s no doubt about that.” The 29-year-old Newcastle loan signing “is an instinctive finisher who stays very calm in the moment”, “He lacks the physicality of really top strikers and can’t hold the ball up but in this division his pace and finishing are spot on.”
Berra v Dwight Gayle (Newcastle United)
“Gayle really buzzes around making a real nuisance of himself when not in possession”, “He needs to play centrally and not wide. Having him on the left leaves us exposed defensively”, “He has pace out wide but his first instinct is to get in the box. He doesn’t hug the touchline and likes to drift inside.”
Baggies’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“Ipswich are bottom and are there for the taking. Fail to beat these and I think Moore will take the biggest roasting of the season so far. It's one thing losing to a team like Leeds, but we can't lose to the league's whipping boys”, “I see a narrow win for the Baggies, but a win is what is important.”
“I’m not even bothered if the performance isn't the best, we just need to correct our home form as soon as possible. Ipswich are a woeful team at the moment, with their morale going right through the floor. I cannot see that we would have any trouble getting three points out of this.”
“If we can’t win this then I honestly fear we won’t make the play-offs. It’s that big a game.” A small number of Baggies expect a comfortable home win on Saturday, but the majority are taking nothing for granted. Their poor home form and two confidence-sapping defeats may count against them.
“I’m somewhat more circumspect than most. Ipswich, despite their lowly position, will not be a walk-over and will not make life easy. We have lost our last two games and confidence will be fragile. It will be a very narrow victory, but would be delighted with the three and four goals some predict.”
“I was just about to post that they have improved based upon getting a few draws recently, then I checked the current form table and they are still dire. We should have enough but I agree that it won’t be easy.”
“The Ipswich fat lady has cleared her throat and Lambert would be stupid not to go for it against us, he will attack from the off”, “If you went to Portman Road, in the second half they pressed us and we struggled a bit in a game which really should have been dead and buried by then.”
“It is in games against the likes of Ipswich, who are struggling, that the management team must earn their corn”, “Talk about a ‘pressure match’, this is probably a chance to get us back on track and get a good result so that’s why, with our latest form, I am going 1-1”,
“I can't see past a comfortable win here despite everything, Ipswich are a truly awful team”, “They will come and put 10 behind the ball I would imagine”, “Most of all we need the crowd right behind the team even when Ipswich are attempting to frustrate us.”
“There’s no point in papering the cracks, these are the games we have to go for. I would normally expect us to beat these convincingly but our home form is that dire that I just haven’t got the confidence to say we will”, “I don't care how we do it. just get the three points.”
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