WBA 0-0 Manchester City F.C.
if one could accurately judge the performance of a football team based on what that club's supporters have to say, a quick glance at the posts in any online forum, or casual listening to post-match radio phone-ins dealing with west bromwich albion football club would suggest a wild inconsistency in quality of play over the past 6 weeks.
nothing could be further from the truth.
while results may have been erratic, and perhaps a bit unlucky, roy hodgson's west brom side has been consistently delivering good on-field performances since their win at home against bolton. even the subsequent home loss to spurs could be counted as a good footballing performance and the 3-1 scoreline certainly flattered the visitors on the day. the difficulty is in getting the average supporter (or at least, the average online poster) to believe in anything but results, and the derision aimed at the manager, chairman and certain individual players is all too often quite unbelievable.
Newcastle United F.C. 2-3 WBA
after having listened to the baggies' home loss to wigan, i could hardly believe it when roy hodgson appeared on TV saying that he had no complaints about the team's performance and if they continue to play to this level they will certainly start to get results. it turned out over the next few weeks to be true. roy hodgson's baggies have started to get results.
however, at the time this sounded quite incredible and was completely at odds with what i had just heard online through the ALBION RADIO transmission on the club's website. it had portrayed the baggies' home fixture against premier league strugglers, wigan athletic, as tragic and a terrible game of football on all counts. indeed, it was made to sound so bad that both chris hall and dave bowler spent much of the match decrying the quality of the football rather than offering a description of the action.
"as you can tell," mr. bowler addressed the listening audience following a lengthy digression in the commentary, "there ay' much going on 'ere!"
however, when viewed as a TV broadcast later on that evening, it was a thoroughly engaging match with both teams playing well through the midfield and exhibiting fine displays of individual defending. most notable was the work of wigan defender, gary caldwell, and the goalkeeping of ali al-habsi.
what is apparent from reading posts made in online fan forums is how easy it is to forcefully state a harsh, critical and judgmental opinion. positive and measured speculation as to how the side might improve its play or what the team might be missing in terms of tactics, team selection and/or transfer goals is much more difficult. when result and form aren't meeting supporter expectation, finding a scapegoat is always the first order of business.
Blackburn Rovers F.C. 1-2 WBA
i don't really know what the baggies' supporters expect realistically, but with most of the albion's points coming away from home, i get the idea that the atmosphere at the hawthorns can get unpleasant pretty quickly these days. the worst example being the aforementioned match against a visiting wigan athletic side.
whatever the case, the baggies have ended 2011 with three excellent results that leave them at 9th in the table and with a mid-season haul of 22 points. in a year that 36-38 points will probably be enough to secure survival - and barring a protracted run of completely disastrous results - the albion will almost certainly be playing top-flight football again next year. i can't understand what all the fuss is about!!!
the truth is, that the style of football that the baggies are playing at the moment is based on the two solid lines of four defenders and mid-fielders holding their shape, and two pacey forwards to produce the counter attack. this will cause the attacking team to have to play the ball wide as their only option coming forward, and any move to play through the middle or put in a cross is quickly cut out. the effectiveness of this style of play was best illustrated in the last match against newcastle, where the winning goal seemed to appear out of absolutely nothing and completely against the run of play.
likewise, the baggies' first half display of single-minded and resolute defending against a frighteningly good manchester city team was nothing short of brilliant, and left west brom with the very real possibility of nicking a win late on rather than sharing the points as they eventually did.
this is fine for away games and has a general use against superior opposition (like manchester city), but they are going to run into trouble playing this way at home against their contemporaries in the bottom-half of the table; and that's exactly what has happened. the gaffer probably needs to rethink how the albion play at the hawthorns. i think it's the most pressing issue for hodgson and his management staff to sort out going into 2012.
like anyone, i'd love to see an improvement on the current home form and would readily welcome some new players to come in and strengthen the squad during the january transfer window. i do have faith that roy hodgson knows what he's doing in that respect and can only hope he's given the resource and leeway to follow through.