A few weeks ago, West Bromwich Albion versus Everton looked like being a relegation battle but, with both clubs having appointed new managers, only one of the clubs looks to be in danger of the drop.
Since Sam Allardyce was appointed at Goodison Park, Everton’s form has been utterly transformed with the only points dropped being in the games against Liverpool and Chelsea. If you count the 4-0 win over West Ham which was played after Big Sam’s appointment but with David Unsworth still technically in charge, the Toffees have won five and drawn two including the 3-0 win over Apollon Limassol. They are second only to Manchester City in the Premier League form table – Albion are 17th with three points from their last six games.
Admittedly, Everton have a much better squad than Albion and they should never have been anywhere near the bottom half of the table, let alone the bottom three, and Allardyce’s job was much easier than Pardew’s. Having said that, none of us thought that we would still be looking for a first win five games into the Pardew era, and it is even more alarming that the two defeats have been against relegation rivals.
I wasn’t at the Bet365 Stadium but having watched the extend highlights, I think that Albion were a little unfortunate to lose. 17 shots, 7 on target, and 57% possession point to Albion being on top but a few years of watching a Tony Pulis team have taught us that there is only one statistic that really matters, goals, and that remains the key issue for Albion. The Baggies did have opportunities at Stoke, and Rondón did score one, but they are lacking the composure and confidence at the vital moment, which is no surprise given that it was just their second goal in five games.
Unless that ratio changes dramatically for the better, and quickly, relegation will soon become a likelihood rather than a possibility. Only bottom-placed Swansea have scored fewer goals than the Baggies and, while Pardew’s arrival has increased the number of chances we have made, converting them to goals has proved a problem. Both shots and shots on target are about 30% higher under Pardew than they were under Pulis this season, but the shot conversion ratio has gone from just under 8% to just under 3%.
This is Albion’s twelfth season in the Premier League and, this is the fourth time that they have been in the bottom three at the halfway point of the season. On only one of the three previous occasions did Albion stay up, the Great Escape season in 2004/05, but on none of those occasions did the club have a squad as strong as the current one, nor the funds to improve it further in January. They are in deep trouble, but they have the ability to get out of it.
One thing that would also help is a little luck. The first goal on Saturday, probably the most important, was another example of where a deflection fell perfectly for Peter Crouch to square it through Evans’s legs for Allen to score. The second goal for Manchester United was another deflected effort, and Bony’s goal for Swansea was a mere hit-and-hope that somehow found a route through a crowd of players. There was also the moment when Butland pushed the ball onto Rondón’s head in the dying minutes on Saturday – a little luck and it finds its way into the net.
And then there is the penalty record. Albion were last awarded a penalty on 17th September 2016 which is a run of 55 matches, 52 of them in the Premier League. Part of that can be put down to their lack of attacking intent under Tony Pulis, but it is an extraordinary run. Robson-Kanu’s claim on Saturday wasn’t that strong, but there have been a few this season, with the foul on Rodriguez at the Emirates the most obvious example, but still the wait for a penalty kick goes on. In fact, since the start of last season, the Baggies have been awarded just that one penalty kick, compared to 14 for Manchester City, 11 for Everton, Crystal Palace and Bournemouth and 10 for Liverpool and Spurs – 148 penalties awarded in total, and just one for Albion.
Looking ahead to the Everton match, there is little reason for optimism. Albion’s Boxing Day record and recent form are both dreadful, Everton are flying and there is that other record that they have never won a Premier League game on a Tuesday, and Boxing Day falls on a Tuesday this year. The visitors will be full of confidence, and they have no shortage of quality, and it will be another tough day for the Baggies.
I’m struggling to be positive for this one. Albion have the ability to win, but they need an early goal and a change of luck and for Everton to have a drop from their recent form. Baggies to lose narrowly.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
11 Mar 2017 – Premier League
Everton 3 (Mirallas, Schneiderlin, Lukaku)
West Brom 0
Last meeting at the Hawthorns
20 Aug 2016 – Premier League
West Brom 1 (McAuley)
Everton 2 (Mirallas, Barry)
13 Feb 2016 – Premier League
West Brom 1 (Rondón)
Last win at the Hawthorns
1 Sep 2012 – Premier League
West Brom 2 (Long, McAuley)
Albion’s Record against Everton
|Premier League Record|