Today, the worst fears of Albion fans were confirmed with Zoltan Gera being ruled out for the rest of the season after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament after his foot got caught in the turf against Tottenham on Saturday. Firstly, I’d like to wish Zoltan all the best in his recovery and hope that our medical team do the usual fantastic job and to see him back at the start of next season fit and firing, in the Premier League.
It is a massive blow for Albion. Roy Hodgson really pushed through this deal, believing that Gera would be absolutely pivotal in Albion’s season. He brought him in despite knowing Gera would not be fit for the start of the season, he regarded Gera as one of three key signings Albion needed to make, the other two being Ben Foster and Shane Long.
When Gera came into the side against Bolton, it is clear to see why Hodgson regarded this signing as key. Gera very much seemed like the final piece of jigsaw, the one player that Albion had been waiting for since the start of the season. Albion kept the ball much better, there was more of a link between midfield and attack with Gera playing just in behind Shane Long.
Those two seemed to be developing a good partnership, and Gera’s creativity had been desperately missed by Albion earlier in the season. Now Albion have to deal with that problem once again. We do have options in that area, that is of no doubt, but they failed to do the job earlier in the season, or weren’t given the opportunity. Now someone has a chance in the next month to grab this space, otherwise Albion will be in desperate need of signing someone with the ability to play Gera’s role.
Of the options available to Roy Hodgson, I expect to see him choose Peter Odemwingie to come into the side alongside Shane Long. This will of course mean a change in formation from a 4-4-1-1 to a more traditional 4-4-2. Earlier this season, that didn’t seem to work too well. But Albion have made changes to their midfield in recent weeks, with James Morrison in the centre of the park alongside Youssuff Mulumbu. This at least means there is more creativity for the front two to feed off, additionally Jerome Thomas has found some form and is looking far more threatening now.
A partnership between Odemwingie and Long is potentially a very good one, but if Albion are looking for a continuation of the current formation then the player I’d really like to see given a go in the advanced midfield role is Graham Dorrans. At the beginning of last season much was expected of the Scotsman, but for a variety of reasons he failed to deliver on a consistent basis.
One of the reasons for this was that it was very rare that we saw Dorrans employed in the role that we have seen the best of him in, behind the striker in a 4-2-3-1/4-4-1-1. There is no doubt Dorrans has the ability to play that role, it is whether he can string a series of games together in that role where we see this ability. It was evident last year in certain games and moments, most notably against Stoke at the Britannia Stadium. It looked like he would have a key role to play until he was on the receiving end of an unceremonious Stoke challenge that left him on the sidelines for the remainder of the season.
Hodgson faces a choice between Dorrans, Odemwingie, Simon Cox and Somen Tchoyi. I expect it to be Odemwingie, I hope it is Dorrans.