West Bromwich Albion 4 - Sheffield United 0
Quick thoughts as I’m absolutely shattered!
This was more of the same. There’s a lot to like about are relentless running and high tempo and whilst in spells the Blades passed it around well in areas that didn’t hurt us, we were totally physically dominant and just muscles they out of it.
Obviously it’s a great scoreline and we should have added to it, but I do think it’s also worth pointing out that there are margins in the scoreline. Surely a decent keeper would’ve prevented 3 of the 4 goals? McGoldrick also missed a total sitter at a crucial time.
I thought we were a bit rushed and even sloppier on the ball than Saturday but that was tiredness. It was good we got plenty of subs minutes in.
I don’t think taking one of the strongest squads in the league and making the fittest and hardest working side in the division is a terrible strategy at all and above all else it’s entertaining.
Who needs a striker?
With the close of the transfer window approaching, some fans may have been slightly worried by the lack of even the usual rumours as to which, if any, strikers the club might have been looking to bring in, so as to address one of the biggest issues within the squad carried over from the previous campaign, however, in putting four past one of the sides that accompanied us down from the top flight, perhaps there's now a case to be made for recognising that the system we're playing doesn't actually need recognisable strikers.
I only saw the goals from the Luton game, so can't say whether keeping the same starting XI that scored three and conceded two was warranted, although would say that, compared to the Bournemouth XI, the sight of O'Shea on the right of the back three, the on-loan Clarke seemingly set to be the left-sided option, was pleasing to see, as was the sight of a loan player actually starting games rather than merely brought in to sit on the bench.
I am as less convinced about left-winger Diangana playing on the right, as I am about right-winger Phillips coming off the bench so as to move Robinson out to the right, late in the games, but perhaps this just adds more weight to the idea that it doesn't really matter who is up front when your front three will spend most of their time pressing, and when any long throw or set-piece kick will see all of the back three in the opponents box.
Interesting too to see that whilst our supposedly "on his way out" keeper Johnstone started again, SheffU's Ramsdale was left out of their side, because of being linked with a move to the Arsenal. The Blades' bench also contained ex-Albion right-winger Burke, and it might be interesting to speculate as to how far down the pecking order he would now be, if still at the club.
Robinson, starting in the centre of that front three, had a goal disallowed for offside within the first two minutes, although straying offside between a melee three yards out from the goal line and the line itself takes some doing. As to whether the SheffU reserve keeper, making his debut, would have got anything on the ball, had the offside Robinson not looked to poach a goal, we'll never know.
Twenty minutes in, and Bartley sliced a "highest tonight" attempted clearance that required good cover from O'Shea, whilst five minutes later a well worked corner move saw multiple runners taking defenders away from Grant, who got the ball in space on the right side of the box, but, perhaps as befits a forward starting on the left, he took too long to control the ball and get off a shot.
Within a minute though, it didn't matter that a forward hadn't got off a shot from a promising position, with the twelfth-man retained in Albion's unchanged line-up from the previous game, OG, scoring the opener for the second game in a row.
Stattos in the crowd might have already been considering, what with the Blades being the only side in the division yet to score a goal, albeit after only two games, that that was "game over", and when McGoldrick failed to even get his shot on target when free inside our box, after we appeared to go to sleep from the restart, even more consideration of that was entertained.
As it was, with Bartley failing to get a free header on target from a corner with about five to go, that man OG's on-target effort would prove to be the only on-target effort of the half, another "ball in the net by virtue of players being offside or fouling in the push-and-shove" notwithstanding.
Second minute of the second-half and the second-rate quality of set piece defending in the second-tier was visible once again, as SheffU's debutant keeper ended up flapping around in the midst of a group of players jumping at the near-post and the ball dropped to O'Shea who merely had to poke in from well inside the six-yard box.
Five or six minutes later and Mowatt reprised his give and go on the edge of the box from the Bournemouth game to score a third, although instead of the one-two being played with Phillips on the left-hand side of the box, this one involved playing one with Grant whilst running down the inside-right channel. Three goals to the good then, and not a striker in sight.
A minute later and our nominal number nine, Robinson, would once again move out the right, in place of Diangana, so as to allow Phillips to do the front central pressing.
Jokanovic, a manager once linked with the Albion, looked to change things around with a double substitution and, in doing so, showed that he might have fitted in in B71, by deploying right-winger Burke wide on the left, however Olly's one run at pace, starting from just inside his own half, came to nothing as a galloping Bartley kept alongside him for long enough for the ex-Albion man to lose control of the ball, which rolled out for a goal-kick.
Around the hour mark, a nominal striker would finally get on the score sheet, after Robinson failed to end up offside as the SheffU keeper flapped at yet another one, and was rewarded with another tap-in from a long throw.
Four goals up against a side who, by now, hadn't scored in some four hours of football probably was "game over", although Johnstone did have to push a goal-bound one away, at full stretch, around the 70 minute mark, after Albion didn't completely deal with a corner.
After that though, it surely can't have escaped the Dutch keeper starting in goal for the visitors that the Albion substitutions bordered on something approaching the "Total Football" approach best associated with his country; first with centre-back Ajayi coming on to replace midfielder Livermore, although it would be defender O'Shea who'd take captain's position (didn't see who got the armband?), and then with Reach, effectively the cover in Townsend's wide-left-mid position, getting a ten-minute run out there, after Clarke got a knock, Townsend dropping back to do a job or, more likely, just have a bit of a rest, on the left of the back three.
The only thing that might take a little of the gloss off of a four-nil defeat of one of the sides that were, along with us, playing top-flight football in the previous season, would be the complete lack of any obvious bouncebackability within the Bramhall Lane side and the worry that there must be sides in the division who can defend long-throws and set-pieces without gifting us OGs and tap-ins but, as long as sides continue to do so , do we really need to bring in a striker?
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