West Bromwich Albion 3 - Bristol City 0
Well that was a very pleasant surprise and I’ll hold my hands up - I didn’t see it coming.
It was probably our best performance of the season and maybe since Chelsea away last season, and I didn’t expect it when I saw our starting lineup.
Whilst there is justifiable credit being dished out to the personnel, the reason we were so much better was the deliberate tactics.
We had all the good parts of Val ball in aggressively pressing but we were patient when we had it, every single player including the keeper looked to pass when in possession. Even Matt Clarke, who is a proper old fashioned whacker, was doing everything he could to retain possession.
Our wide players stayed wide, giving us a way to play through the opposition team. We looked formidable as a result.
The key thing was patience. For the first time this season we knocked it about across the back or in midfield until an opening was worked and then we attacked aggressively. It caught Bristol totally off guard.
Our first goal was a brilliant move, sharp passing and then a brilliant ball to get Furlong away and he set up Hugill for a sitter.
It should’ve been 3 or 4 by half time for Hugill alone - he couldn’t convert an almost identical move from the left through being not quite quick enough, put a great chance over the bar, missed a 1v1 and also didn’t have the pace to run to goal when played in behind 40 yards out. Thankfully we still had the long throw threat and Bartley got a second.
Despite the various interruptions and delays we stuck at the approach all the way through the game, even when the subs came on after Grant had confidently finished a 3rd after a terribly short back pass.
In continuing to keep the ball on the floor it made Diagana look like the player we know he is and he set up Hugill for another chance he should’ve finished - this time a heavy touch took him wide but then he dinked it over the keeper well enough but it was cleared off the line. One piece of control from Grady with the back of his heel was outrageous, and both he and Robinson pulled Bristol all over the place as we- wait for it- retained possession and largely controlled the game to a close.
I think it was the 72nd minute before SJ went long with a kick. What a contrast to Swansea and most of the season. I really do think this is the way forward for us and I hope we use this as the model moving forward. Everyone will accept us being more direct if we’re having an off day, in poor conditions or the way the game is going justifies it. It just shouldn’t be our default and despite who poor Bristol were, we proved here that we can do it and do it well.
Final thought - it’s rare to see a fan taken ill at a game. It’s surely not a coincidence to have 2 in a game when COVID levels are so high? Are things getting so out of control already that restrictions will have to come back for football and wider society? This was perhaps a stark reminder of a long winter ahead.
One of the most one-sided games I've seen in a long time (possibly since we lost 6-0 at home to Liverpool in 2003), but the most telling sentence in Brendan's report is "Imagine how many a Gayle or Phillips would've scored today".
23 attempts and 3 goals is a mediocre return at best and if we are to overtake Bournemouth and Fulham for an automatic promotion place we need to find a proper striker.
The Grant goal v Bristol City was the finest WBA goal I can recall with the magnificent crossfield passes and movement. Seen on EFL Quest 10.00am Sunday.
Mustn't get carried away though!!
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