West Brom 0 Leeds United 5
2020 will not go down as a great year in the annals of history for obvious reasons. For the fans of some clubs, the football has provided some light relief, Leeds United amongst them, but for Baggies fans, even achieving promotion has not been able to hide a poor twelve months.
That the final game of the year was a repeat of the first makes a comparison of the relative progress of the clubs quite stark. Leeds and Albion were separated by goal difference at the top of the Championship as the new year dawned, and the two clubs couldn’t be separated on the field on 1st January and we all looked forward to an interesting battle for the title.
That seems incredible when you looked at the two sides on Tuesday evening. the visitors were streets ahead in terms of quality and confidence and the 5-0 result was the least that they deserved as they dominated the match from start to finish.
Albion’s league record for 2020 is 40 points from 37 games, perhaps acceptable for a team fighting against relegation, but let’s not forget that this incudes the conclusion of a promotion-winning campaign.
Romaine Sawyers apologised on Twitter for “setting the tone” with his dreadful own goal that gifted Leeds the lead, but even without that helping hand, Albion would have been well beaten. The performance of the players was so far removed from the battling display that earned a point at Anfield that it was scarcely believeable.
I don’t feel it necessary to criticise individual players as the group as a whole must take collective responsibility. There has never been a question that the squad is short on quality at this level, and that consistency is a hallmark of a quality footballer, but the difference in application from game to game, and sometimes from half to half, over the whole of the campaign has been staggering.
After Chelsea, came Southampton; after Burnley and Brighton came Fulham; after Sheffield United came Crystal Palace and after Man City came Villa. And now this.
Sam Allardyce was frank in his post match interview, and you get the feeling that he is not sure that he can do this. The January window is key and he must hope that the owners are prepared to give him the funds, and that he can attract players with the right attributes. There is no certainty to either.
Given the lateness of the start to this campaign, the January window is opening earlier in the season than normal – last season, there had been 20 rounds completed by the end of December compared to 16 this time around. If Allardyce can make some additions early in the window, hardly the normal state of affairs at the Hawthorns admittedly, they could have as many as 20 games to make an impact.
Hope remains, as demonstrated by the games at the Etihad and Anfield, but consistency of performance is needed as are goals – five goals in the last thirteen games tells its own story.
Good luck Big Sam, you are going to need it.