What a difference a week makes – last Monday, the knives were out in force for Darren Moore after Albion had succumbed to defeat at Wigan in what was their worst performance of the season. Today, Big Dave is being lauded after the Baggies comfortably beat the side that had topped the table in what was undoubtedly their best display of the campaign.
Most will point to the change in system to a 4-3-3 as the reason for the change in fortunes but, while that was obviously a key element to the victory, Darren Moore had to do much more than that to coax this performance from a side that looked at rock bottom in terms of confidence last week.
The decision to start Hal Robson-Kanu, the much-maligned centre forward, proved to be a masterstroke. Most fans will have gasped in anguish to have seen his name on the teamsheet rather than the much-anticipated return of Dwight Gayle, but the Welshman was superb through the game. His strength and ability on the ball was excellent as he acted as the point man for the majority of Albion’s attacks, and his finish for the key opening goal was of the highest quality. We’ve seen HRK put good performances in before, although never of that quality in an Albion shirt, but his biggest problem is the ability to reproduce them on a regular basis.
Defensively, Albion were as solid as they have been all season with Ahmed Hegazi the stand out performer in the back line as he was back to his best in a familiar back four. Tosin looked far more comfortable at right back without the additional attacking responsibilities of being at wing back, and overall it was a defensive display that Tony Pulis would have been proud of. Albion’s share of possession at just 28% also harked back to the Pulis era, but this side was far more inventive and attacking, and their quick breaks and high pressing meant that they controlled the match despite being without the ball for so much of it.
The win moves Albion back into the top six ahead of the international break but still five points off the lead. It remains very tight at the top of the second tier, although not as tight as in 2001/02. After 17 games that season, Albion had one more point that this season but were down in 8th place but still only five points off top spot which was occupied by Wolverhampton Wanderers; and we all know which club went up that season.
Compare that to 2000/01 when Albion also had 28 points but were in 7th spot eleven points behind leaders, Watford, with second place Fulham already seven points clear of third-placed Birmingham City. Fulham won the league with 101 points while Watford finished 9th; there is a lot that can change between now and the end of the season.
|* Positions are recorded as Albion’s position in the table after all fixtures for that day have been completed.|
|2001/2002||04/11/2001||Nottingham Forest (H)||W||1-0||Rosler|
|2003/2004||08/11/2003||West Ham United (A)||W||4-3||Hulse (2), Deane (o.g.), Hughes|
|2006/2007||11/11/2006||Norwich City (H)||L||0-1|
|2007/2008||25/11/2007||Wolverhampton Wanderers (H)||D||0-0|
|2009/2010||21/11/2009||Bristol City (H)||W||4-1||Thomas, Brunt, Carey (o.g.), Cox|
|2018/2019||10/11/2018||Leeds United (H)||W||4-1||Robson-Kanu, Phillips, Barnes, Gayle|
|2000/2001||11/11/2000||Huddersfield Town (A)||W||2-0||Jordão, Hughes|
|2001/2002||07/11/2001||Birmingham City (A)||W||1-0||Johnson|
|2006/2007||18/11/2006||Burnley (H)||W||3-0||Koumas, Ellington, Carter|
|2007/2008||28/11/2007||Plymouth Argyle (A)||W||2-1||Bednar (2)|
|2009/2010||28/11/2009||Sheffield Wednesday (A)||W||4-0||Cox (2), Thomas, Brunt|
|2018/2019||23/11/2018||Ipswich Town (A)|