So in the week that I haven't blogged, The Baggies have suffered two very disappointing defeats although not entirely unexpected. That is one important thing to note, both Everton and Newcastle are above us in the table and would have fancied their chances in the two matches. This is not to say they were write-offs, Albion beat Newcastle earlier this season away from home and did the double over Everton last season.
The worst thing about these two games were the performances put in by The Albion. Gone were the free-flowing, attractive yet solid football that we witnessed against Wolves and Sunderland or the resilience and guile shown against Chelsea and Wigan. The two performances were distinctly average, "on the beach" displays from the players.
The football was slow and cumbersome, the defending poor. Albion lacked any pace or width, and the service to the strikers in both games was nigh-on non-existent. There are of course many reasons for this.
I consider one of the key reasons for this to be the words of Roy Hodgson, who essentially said Albion are safe. Now I don't disagree with him, though the pessimist in me would like 4 more points to reach the magic 40. But it does seem to have had an effect on the players, who now seem to be playing like they are safe and thus are not performing to the best of their abilities. Maybe it is merely a coincidence, after all they are professional footballers they should know themselves they are not yet safe.
Another reason that falls at the feet of Hodgson is some of the recent team selections, particularly the Wigan game where Albion were so lucky to gain a point. I felt some of his selections there were strange to say the least. Liam Ridgewell had looked very comfortable at Left Back and with the suspension of Jonas Olsson, it seemed like the perfect chance to give Craig Dawson some more game-time in a low pressure situation. As it was, Ridgewell moved to centre back and didn't look half as good and has seemed a bit less assured on his return to left back, whilst his replacement on the day, Nicky Shorey, had a dire game. Another selection I have questioned was the inclusion of Somen Tchoyi on Saturday. I rate Tchoyi but I don't see how he can go from not even getting into the matchday squad to the starting XI and then expect him to perform. Far too many of the Albion starting line up were lacking match fitness.
One thing that cannot be blamed on Hodgson is some of the luck Albion are having with injuries at the moment. James Morrison and Steven Reid have both been ruled out until near the end of the season or in Reid's case until pre-season, two men who were pivotal figures in the Albion's February revival. Albion seem to lack a replacement for the driving runs and creative ability of Morrison, with the closest being Graham Dorrans who has also been injured recently.
There are probably more reasons than this, such as the seeming inability of Shane Long and Peter Odemwingie to work as a duo or the uncertainty hanging over the future of Hodgson, but those are what I consider to be the main reasons. Albion fans will be hoping for a win on Saturday just to cancel out any fears they may have of relegation.
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