After a two week break, Albion return to action on Saturday with a match at home to relegation-threatened Norwich City. The Canaries are on a run of eight defeats in their last eleven games in all competitions which has seen then drop from 14th place on 2nd January into the bottom three fighting it out with Sunderland and Newcastle to avoid joining doomed Aston Villa in the Championship next season.
The Throstles, on the other hand, have won three and drawn one of their last four Premier League games to pull well clear of the relegation battle with eyes now turned to the top half and a potential record points tally in the Premier League. Should Albion beat Norwich, it will be their record points haul from five Premier League games, with the previous best being 12 when the Baggies won four on the bounce in November 2012.
Their last match saw Albion beat Manchester United in a league match at the Hawthorns for the first time since 1984, and while the final result was close, it was a well-deserved victory for the hosts. The sending off of Juan Mata in the first half did not harm the Baggies’ cause, but Albion were the better side beforehand and United rarely threatened to score despite a sustained period of possession after half time.
Rondón grabbed the winner, and the headlines, and he certainly put in an impressive performance, but the man of the match for me was Claudio Yacob. The Argentine was imperious in the centre of midfield, seemingly being able to put himself in the way of every United attack as well as being a key cog in the Albion attacking machine. His distribution was excellent, if rarely ambitious as he put in the sort of performance that his opponent on the day, Michael Carrick, would’ve been proud of. With former Red Devil, Darren Fletcher, alongside him, the centre of Albion’s midfield was as good as it’s been all season.
Up front, Rondón and Berahino worked well again and, while Sessègnon had a but of an off day, Albion looked a threat throughout and probably should’ve scored more than the one goal. I’d like to think that Pulis is beginning to realise that Albion can play with ambition while retaining their defensive solidity – the last three games have proved that. If he wants to blame the “absence” of Berahino for not trying that before now, fine, but I think Albion could have been playing this way with equal if not better success all season, and the Baggies fans would’ve been much happier.
As it is, should Albion continue in the same vein for the rest of the season, the 50 point mark should be well within reach and a decision to remove Pulis would become much more difficult for Jeremy Peace to justify, but let’s not forget the circumstances in which the Welshman left his last club. A disagreement with Palace chairman Steve Parish saw Pulis walk out just days before the start of the season, a decision which has come back to haunt him this week as the courts found in favour of Palace in the dispute over his bonus.
With Peace looking to appoint a Technical Director at the Hawthorns, Pulis has said that he is unconcerned providing the new man doesn’t interfere with how Pulis does his job – hmmm, it could be an interesting summer. Let’s hope the timing of any bonus payments are uncontroversial!
Given that Albion have finished above Norwich City in every Premier League season they have competed together, their record against the Canaries is not too impressive, particularly at the Hawthorns. The East Anglians have won two of the four games at the Shrine with the Baggies winning just once in December 2012 when Romelu Lukaku grabbed the winner. On their last visit, a year later, Albion boss, Steve Clarke, was on the brink of the sack (not that he knew it at the time) and Norwich took all three points thanks to goals from Hooper and Fer.
Albion’s record win over the Canaries was 20 years ago when Andy Hunt and Ian Hamilton both grabbed a brace, with Paul Peschisolido also scoring in a 5-1 win. That came 12 months after Norwich’s biggest win at the Hawthorns when they came from behind with goals from Fleck, Scott, Adams and Ward to win 4-1 in November 1995 in a Division One match.
James Morrison remains sidelined but McManaman, Dawson and Evans could all be fit enough to make the squad.
For the visitors, Nathan Redmond will miss out having been injured against Man City last weekend, and Ryan Bennett is also a doubt.
Norwich looked a solid defensive outfit against an out-of-sorts Manchester City on Sunday, which is a marked improvement for the side that conceded 14 goals in 4 games not too long ago. However, they looked fairly toothless and the absence of Nathan Redmond will not help. If Pulis continues with his recent attacking mindset, Albion should get the three points.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
24 Oct 2015 – Premier League
Norwich City 0
West Brom 1 (Rondón)
Last meeting at the Hawthorns
7 Dec 2013 – Premier League
West Brom 0
Norwich City 2 (Hooper, Fer)
Last win at the Hawthorns
22 Dec 2012 – Premier League
West Brom 2 (Gera, Lukaku)
Norwich City 1 (Snodgrass)
Albion’s Record against Norwich City
|Premier League Record|