Halfway through the season and the Baggies sit in third place having gone seven games unbeaten since a mini-slump in October, but the imperious recent form of the top two means that they sit five points off second-placed Norwich City and six behind table-toppers, Leeds United.
Ironically, Darren Moore’s team have beaten both teams above them, but may have to do so again if they want to grab an automatic promotion spot. Those games are to come, and Albion must first ensure they take maximum points from two winnable home games that will bring 2018 to an end.
First up on Boxing Day is Paul Cook’s Wigan Athletic who travel to the Hawthorns looking to complete a first ever league double over the Baggies having won 1-0 at the DW Stadium in October.
Since then, however, the Latics have won just one game losing seven of the ten matches and have picked up just one point from the five away games since then. They have only managed five points away from the DW all season, so it will be a game that the Baggies will be expecting to take maximum points.
However, there will hopefully be no sense of complacency following the failure to beat Brentford three weeks ago, and with Leeds and Norwich having taken 22 and 23 points respectively from the last 27 available, Albion can ill afford to drop any more points at home to teams in the bottom half of the table.
The win at Rotherham on Saturday was as close to a complete performance that Albion have managed so far this season. The hosts had one or two chances, including a penalty of course, but there was no spell in the game when the Baggies didn’t look to be in control.
Scoring early was probably a big part of that as it didn’t give the Millers any time to get a hold of the game, particular when the second came before the mid-way point of the first half, and it was a case of controlling the game from then on.
Had Rodriguez taken that early chance against Brentford, I feel sure that Albion would have gone on to win that game and, while his goalscoring record remains excellent, I think that he produced another below par performance at Rotherham and it may be the right time to give him a rest.
A spell of five games in fifteen days is probably reason enough to rest players, and given that Hal Robson-Kanu is back fit once again, it does seem like an opportune time to switch things around.
Gareth Barry also looked below his best at Rotherham and was replaced by Chris Brunt part way through the second half. Brunty may well get the nod in the starting line up but I’d also like to see Rekeem Harper get some time on the field if Albion can get a comfortable lead.
It’s difficult to see what other changes Moore might make given the performance levels of the team assuming they all remain fit. Obviously the volume of games may lead to one or two players being rested, but if they are all fit and raring to go, I’d be surprised to see anything else change for the visit of Wigan.
Paul Cook’s men are reeling from a 3-0 home defeat by Birmingham City, and Albion need to start quickly to keep their confidence levels low. If they do, we could see the Baggies notch four goals for the seventh time this season.
Before the 21st century, West Bromwich Albion and Wigan Athletic had met on just six occasions and, unsurprisingly given the clubs’ relative stature to that point, the Latics had yet to record a victory over the Baggies.
There had been just three meetings at the Hawthorns and the Lancashire club had managed to earn a draw in the first ever league meeting between the clubs in Division Three in August 1991. Bobby Gould was Albion’s manager and he saw the visitors take the lead through Gary Worthington only for Bernard McNally to equalise before half time in front of just over 12,000 fans.
It was a different story the next season. Gould had been replaced by Ossie Ardiles and a free-scoring Albion were heading towards promotion when Wigan visited in April 1993. Once again, the Latics took the lead, this time through Phil Daley but the hosts were back on level terms by half time thanks to Baggies top scorer, Bob Taylor. After the break, Albion ran riot as Mickey Mellon, Kevin Donovan and Paul Raven all scored before Super Bob scored his second of the game, his 35th goal of the season, late on to make it 5-1.
Since the turn of the century, Wigan have enjoyed the better of the results against Albion. At the Hawthorns, they have won three of the six league fixtures with the Baggies winning two.
The first of those was a Division One fixture in March 2004. Both clubs were fighting for promotion although, while Albion were just one place above of Wigan ahead of the game in 2nd, the Baggies had a nine point advantage. However, the Latics had a game in hand and it was the very definition of a six-pointer. It proved to be a tight affair and it exploded into life when Wigan were awarded a penalty by future World Cup Final referee, Howard Webb, with just under 20 minutes to go. Andy Liddel converted to put the visitors ahead but then less than five minutes later, Albion were awarded a spot kick of their own. Lee Hughes put it away and it looked to be heading towards a draw before Thomas Gaardsøe popped up with a stoppage time winner. That put the Baggies 11 points clear of Sheffield United, who moved into third place, with nine games left.
Albion’s most recent home win over Wigan was in May 2009. Marc-Antoine Fortuné scored a brace, with Chris Brunt also finding the net, in a 3-1 win that kept the rock-bottom Baggies’ faint hopes of staying up alive. Their relegation was confirmed by defeat to Liverpool the following weekend.
The last meeting between the sides at the Hawthorns was in May 2013. Steve Clarke’s Baggies were suffering in the run in and contrived to lose at home to Roberto Martinez’s side despite twice taking the lead. Shane Long opened the scoring only for Arouna Koné to equalise before the break. Gareth McAuley scored just after half time but goals from James McArthur and future Baggie, Callum McManaman, ensured Wigan went home with all three points. It was in vain, however, as it proved to be the Latics’ last league win of the season and they were relegated. They did, of course, record one more victory in the FA Cup Final against Manchester City.
Another comfortable win for the Baggies to keep the festive cheer alive!
All competitions; most recent game on the right
20 Oct 2018 – League Championship
Wigan Athletic 1 (Windass)
West Brom 0
Last meeting at the Hawthorns
4 May 2013 – Premier League
West Brom 2 (Long, McAuley)
Wigan Athletic 3 (Koné, McArthur, McManaman)
10 Nov 2012 – Premier League
Wigan Athletic 1 (Koné)
West Brom 2 (Morrison, Caldwell (o.g.))
Last win at the Hawthorns
9 May 2009 – Premier League
West Brom 3 (Fortuné (2), Brunt)
Wigan Athletic 1 (Rodallega)
Albion’s Record against Wigan Athletic