West Brom 0 Leicester City 3
The national media pundits will be feeling smug as Albion were comprehensively beaten on their first test in their Premier League return reinforcing their view that the Baggies will be relegated come the end of the season.
By the end of the game, even the most optimistic of Albion fans will be struggling to find too much to be positive about, although I’ll give it a go!
At half time, I was encouraged but worried, and it was my worries that played out. For the first 25 minutes, Albion looked confident on the ball and were certainly causing Leicester problems without creating anything clear cut. Slav’s new 3-4-3 formation seemed to be working well in as much as the extra man at the back looked to be enough to deal with the Foxes’ forays into the Albion third. Some neat moves up front were encouraging although the lack of the extra man in attack was certainly noticeable.
Just before the half hour, however, the visitors started to get a grip in the game and Sam Johnstone was called into action three times in fairly quick succession with former Baggie, Harvey Barnes, the chief protagonist in the visitors’ maroon change kit.
Leicester started the second half as they had finished the first and, nine minutes after the break, they fashioned the opening goal. It was particularly disappointing that it was two of Albion’s more experienced players who were found wanting – Jake Livermore failed to track Dennis Praet’s run while Kieran Gibbs allowed Foxes debutant, Timothy Castagne, to rise above him to head home Praet’s cross.
From that point on, the result never looked in doubt. The confidence with which the hosts had begun the game seemed to dissipate almost immediately while Leicester’s grew in inverse proportion. The second goal was only a matter of time and it was Bartley who was at fault this time as he allowed Vardy to get the wrong side of him and clumsily brought him down in the box.
Bilić tried to change it by switching back to the 4-2-3-1 formation that was favoured last season, but the game was already gone and none of the substitutes had any sort of impact on the game.
The third goal was, perhaps, a tad harsh but the Baggies were well beaten in the end. Ultimately, they were left wanting in all areas of the pitch.
Up front, Diangana and Pereira had some neat touches but didn’t do enough while Robinson was ultimately well marshalled and Robson-Kanu barely got a touch as Leicester controlled the second half.
Sawyers was largely anonymous while Livermore did OK until he lost his man at a crucial time for the opening goal. Furlong was, perhaps, Albion’s stand out performer and was certainly one of their most potent attacking outlets on the right side early on. Gibbs was less effective on the other flank.
The back three seemed to start well but ultimately were found wanting with the two penalties – some harsh lessons need to be learned, and quickly.
It’s easy to be critical and negative after a 3-0 home defeat, but I’m not completely despondent. There is no doubt that the squad needs some additional strengthening, but there are a few positives from the first half hour. I do feel that it was more a mental issue than a quality issue in the second half as the first goal seemed to completely change Albion’s approach to the game.
While I would not want to put too much on the shoulders of one player, but the signing of Ivanović could be a massive boost on that front. A player that has done it at the highest level, a big character, will surely have a positive impact.
Additionally, we all know we need a goalscorer but I don’t want to write off anyone after one game. Some players will need time to adapt into the Premier League – they won’t have long, but surely we can’t judge them just yet.
As I’m writing this, Albion’s next opponents, Everton, are looking useful against Spurs. Leicester may have had a few players missing today, but they remain a good side finishing in fifth place last season and it looks like the Toffees could present an equally difficult challenge next weekend. It’s not going to get easier any time soon!
However, the return of fans to stadia will, in my opinion, have a positive impact for the Baggies. We can make a difference when it matters and that can’t come soon enough.
Much to do, but let’s try and keep it positive on day one!