West Brom win but are struggling under Hodgson

A late Graham Dorrans strike against Stoke gave West Brom their seventh win of the season but, while there were positives to draw from the match, Roy Hodgson’s side are right in the mire that is the Premier League relegation battle.

 

The Baggies have missed the creativity of Zoltan Gera this season, who picked up a knee injury in November, and have looked one-dimensional and one-paced for the last few months. They are not particularly pleasant on the eye for any fan of the passing game; this, of course, isn’t necessarily a major problem, as long their style is effective.
Four wins since November and only 20 goals scored in the league this season would suggest that West Brom are struggling this season. While they might not be favourites to go down, this is perhaps only because of the astoundingly poor quality below them: it would be a quite astonishing fall from grace if a mid-table team became worse than Blackburn, Bolton or Wigan in the space of six months.
The most worrying thing for West Brom fans in recent weeks, though, has been that Hodgson has seemed incredibly reluctant to change things. He’s been reliant to an almost stubborn level on the 4-4-2 formation, a set-up which has failed to get the best out of certain players, including Peter Odemwingie, who has only scored four goals in 17 games, a poor return from a player who starred last season.
The Nigerian hasn’t been able to forge a cohesive partnership with top scorer Shane Long (6 in 17 games), but both were left on the bench for the away trip to Stoke, with Hodgson reverting to an almostfluid 4-5-1 formation. Marc-Antoine Fortune was given his first start of the season in a move that was surely designed to battle against the physical features of Stoke’s defence. Simon Cox played out on the wing but came inside to play as a kind of second striker.
A central midfield three of Graham Dorrans, James Morrison and Youssuf Mulumbu worked well as a unit, attacking well and defending resolutely when needed. Jerome Thomas was lively on the left wing.
Both Stoke and West Brom looked to power the ball forward as soon as possible, with Nicky Shorey in particular desperate to hit a sometimes isolated Fortune, whether there were better options on or not. This contented refusal with possession football was always going to be problematic with the wind causing both sides problems, most notably playing a part in Morrison’s poor shot dribbling past a hapless Thomas Sorensen into the net.
That goal was only West Brom’s 21st of the season in what was their 22ndgame, but while they’ve struggled to score goals this term, they’ve been impressively tight in defence. Jonas Olsson, unyielding against the Potters, marshals the defence well and has become West Brom’s version of what Christopher Samba is at Blackburn – dominant, omnipresent and consistently leading by example (although Olsson looks to actually be committed to his club). And behind him, the excellent Ben Foster is a reassuring presence.
The fact remains, though, that the team who finished 11th last season now find themselves amongst relegation candidates and are in a similar situation to QPR and Wolves, both in terms of league position – hovering dangerously above the bottom three, their situation far from safe – and playing quality.
Many fans have now started to ask if owner Jeremy Peace needs to start investing more money into the playing squad or whether a new owner needs to come in to give Hodgson more to work with.
There has to be criticism for Hodgson, though, and, while today’s performance against Stoke was promising and gave them a much-needed three points, the problems are still there. The offensive play is predictable and, with that lack of cutting edge, WBA struggle to open teams up. Almost half (49%) of West Brom’s shots this season have come from outside the box; their best chance today and the two goals were strikes from range, Morrison hitting the post in the second half with a volley and Dorrans’ free-kick, which Stoke should have dealt with better.
Of course, this is not to say that Hodgson is failing as such. This is certainly not a call for his head – for one, it is difficult to imagine who would come in and be an improvement on the Englishman. Hodgson needs more time to build and there maybe has been a lack of investment, but that doesn’t mean he’s without fault.

Premier League round-up: Matchday 32

The game of the Premier League weekend undoubtedly came at the Stadium of Light where West Bromwich Albion came from behind twice to eventually win 3-2. Sunderland seemed to be in complete control as Nicky Shorey put through his own net for the away side before Asamoah Gyan wasted a great goalscoring opportunity, but Peter Odemwingie fired in from close range just before the half-hour mark to level the scores.

Within three minutes, though, Sunderland full-back Phil Bardsley smashed in a free-kick from thirty yards to restore the Black Cats’ lead. But then came the fightback. Roy Hodgson’s side scored first through Youssuf Mulumbu and then Paul Scharner to propel West Brom to 10th in the table.
It can be safely assumed that West Brom’s Premier League status is all but safe but, sadly, the same cannot be said of Wolves, who succumbed to a 3-0 home defeat to Everton. Despite Mick McCarthy’s side dominating the opening twenty minutes it was Everton who took the lead through a Jermaine Beckford header. Wolves’ ‘keeper Wayne Hennessey tried his best to keep his side in the tie but he could do nothing about Everton’s second and third goals, Phil Neville and Dinyar Bilyaleyetdinov firing in before half-time to condemn Wolves to yet another week in the relegation zone.
A Daniel Sturridge-led Bolton overcame West Ham, the on-loan striker brilliantly curling a shot into the top corner to give Owen Coyle’s side an early advantage. The young Englishman scored again just after half-time after Chung-Yong Lee had doubled their lead. Sturridge’s parent club Chelsea were kept at bay by an inspired Ali-Al Habsi in the Wigan goal but Florent Malouda scored with twenty minutes left to keep The Blues’ title hopes alive.
Manchester United are clear favourites for the title and they easily overcame Fulham at Old Trafford, Dimitar Berbatov rounding off a neat move to give them the lead after twelve minutes. Antonio Valencia then nearly finished for Rooney-less United on the half-hour, heading in from close range.
Two relegation candidates, Birmingham and Blackburn, fought out a tense 1-1 draw at Ewood Park. Lee Bowyer had given Birmingham the lead but Junior Hoillet equalised for Rovers just before half-time.
A quite incredible first half at White Hart Lane saw five goals, three of which went to Tottenham Hotspur as they attempted to recover from their crushing Champions League defeat to Real Madrid in the week. Peter Crouch scored two, going some way to making up for that ridiculous and pointless red card, with Luka Modric getting a goal in between. Matt Etherington scored a fine solo goal for Stoke and Kenwyne Jones scored just before half-time, but neither side could gain an advantage in the second half, leaving Spurs in fifth place.
Arsenal comfortably defeated Blackpool at Bloomfield Road thanks to goals from Abou Diaby, Emmanuel Eboue and Robin Van Persie. The Tangerines looked incredibly lax at the back and, within twenty minutes, Arsenal took the lead, Diaby finishing with great ease from a Van Persie cross, before Eboue doubled The Gunners’ advantage, firing past stranded ‘keeper Richard Kingson. Gary Taylor-Fletcher did get a goal back for Blackpool but Van Persie rounded off the victory, Theo Walcott squaring for the Dutchman to calmly slot home.
Blackpool manager Ian Holloway bemoaned the performance of referee Lee Mason (and, possibly, rightly so) but his side were soundly beaten at home by a team who, after being ruled out of the title race by most pundits just last week, seem to be right back in the mix after this weekend.
Sunday’s other game involved struggling Aston Villa host Newcastle United in a match that saw just one goal. James Collins headed home in the 25th minute to send Gerard Houiller’s side five points clear of the relegation zone.
Monday night’s game Liverpool walk all over Manchester City – the Anfield club scoring three first half goals, two from an impressive Andy Carroll and one from an outstanding Dirk Kuyt. The Dutchman finished off superbly with Carroll striking either side to leave Liverpool just five points off a Europa League spot, a quite phenomenal turn-around given where they were before Kenny Dalglish was appointed manager.
Matchday 32 results: Blackburn 1 – 1 Birmingham; Bolton 3 – 0 West Ham; Chelsea 1 – 0 Wigan; Manchester United 2 – 0 Fulham; Sunderland 2 – 3 West Brom; Tottenham 3 – 2 Stoke; Wolves 0 – 3 Everton; Aston Villa 1 – 0 Newcastle; Blackpool 1 – 3 Arsenal; Liverpool 3 – 0 Manchester City
Matchday 33 fixtures: Birmingham-Sunderland; Blackpool-Wigan; Everton-Blackburn; West Brom-Chelsea; West Ham-Aston Villa; Arsenal-Liverpool; (Tuesday) Newcastle-Manchester United; (Wednesday) Chelsea-Birmingham; Tottenham-Arsenal
 
This article originally appeared on sports website Sports Haze, which is now unfortunately defunct.
 

Revenge will be sweet for Roy Hodgson & Blackpool in trouble

West Brom vs. Liverpool: Revenge will be sweet for Hodgson

Hodgson will look to get one over on Liverpool this weekend

Roy Hodgson meets his former employers this weekend and, not only is it a big game for Hodgson himself, it’s a huge a game for West Brom.



Most think that he wasn’t given enough time at Liverpool. Many believe that Liverpool just wasn’t the right club for him; that he couldn’t handle the pressure of managing a ‘big club’. What is for certain, though, is that Roy Hodgson, in the time that he was given at Anfield, failed as manager of Liverpool Football Club.

Hodgson was given just over six months to stabilise a club in free-fall after a combination of poor management, poor ownership and all-round poor decisions left England’s most successful football club of the twentieth century in dire straits.
Earlier this week two Anfield talisman spoke out about Hodgson’s time with the club, saying that the sixty-three-year-old wasn’t to blame for the failure of Anfield. Captain Steven Gerrard stated that, “as players we didn’t perform consistently for him”, with centre-back Jamie Carragher adding: “it’s not as if Roy was there for two years and didn’t do well so as a group of players you have to ask are we doing well enough.”

Of course, Kop legend Kenny Dalglish took over from Hodgson in January, with Liverpool sitting 12thin the League. They now sit 6th, just four points away from Tottenham. The turn-around has been quite staggering.
Everyone has their own opinion: did the players not perform under Hodgson but are now finding their feet with Dalglish at the helm? Are Dalglish’s tactics simply more suited to the Liverpool players? Or is (or, was) Hodgson simply tactically inept and didn’t understand what it meant to be manager of Liverpool?
Hodgson is now manager of West Brom. Many tipped them for the drop when the former-Inter Milan, Blackburn Rovers and Finland manager was appointed West Brom head coach in February, after Roberto Di Matteo was sacked.
Many Baggies fans were unhappy with the departure of Di Matteo as he was seen as a young, likeable manager, as well as being a good coach with fantastic man-management skills. He was seen as the future of the club, a future that was then cast in doubt as Hodgson was brought in with less than four months left in the season and with a relegation fight on their hands.
West Brom are currently 16th in the Premier League and just one point above the relegation zone, but the fact that Hodgson has organised the team into a well-oiled machine as well as actually playing players in their preferred positions (as Di Matteo was criticised for doing the opposite) has delighted fans at The Hawthorns.
This weekend, though, sees a match that has set many tongues wagging. Liverpool visit West Brom on Saturday meaning that Hodgson faces his old employers for the first time since his exit.
Dalglish, though, had some positive words to say about the man who will be in the opposite dug-out this weekend: “Roy hasn’t got anything to prove to anybody. If you say he has extra motivation then you are doubting the man’s integrity and implying he never had enough motivation before”, Dalglish told The Telegraph.

“I have great respect for him as I said when I came in here and that isn’t going to change now that we are playing against each other.”

What is for sure, though, is that Hodgson will be looking to get one over on his former employers come Saturday, 3pm. West Brom’s Premier League status is not yet safe and a win against Liverpool could set them on their way to a fine run-in.

Hodgson has stated today that he already has targets in mind for the summer transfer window; he expects to be at West Brom for the foreseeable future but knows he needs time to build. On Saturday, he’ll come up against the side that wouldn’t allow him that time, in a game that could spark the surge away from relegation.

The time is now for Blackpool
EPL: Blackpool are in danger of relegation
In 2011, they’ve won just two games. They’re in the middle of an intense relegation battle. Blackpool’s form is relegation form.
The English Premier League relegation battle is always a gripping story that unfolds over the course of thirty-eight games. Usually, by the time April comes around, the relegation contenders have been whittled down to around five teams.
This time last season, Portsmouth were propping up the table on thirteen points, with Burnley above them on twenty-four – Championship football was already on the cards for these two sides. Between eighth placed Fulham and Hull City (18thand in the relegation zone) there were eleven points. Realistically though, Wigan and West Ham were the only other relegation concerns. Burnley, Hull and Portsmouth were demoted at the end of the season.
This season, it is not so clear-cut. There are eight points between the bottom club and 7th placed Bolton. West Ham, West Brom, Blackpool, Aston Villa and Blackburn are all in serious danger of dropping into a relegation zone currently featuring Wolves, Birmingham and Wigan. With eight games to go, no one is safe.
Blackpool, in particular, have seen a horrific fall in form. A 4-0 win away at Wigan sent them to the top of the Premier League table after the first game. A 6-0 thrashing from Arsenal didn’t exactly dampen their spirits as, by 28thDecember, they were sitting eighth in the table.
And then came the turn of the year. In 2011, The Tangerines have won two games (against Liverpool and Tottenham). They’ve lost vital games against their relegation rivals: Birmingham, West Brom, West Ham and Wolves. In their last six games, they’ve conceded sixteen goals. To put it bluntly, their current form is relegation form.
Charlie Adam, Blackpool’s star player this season, was, somewhat expectedly, completely outclassed on Sunday as Scotland were defeated 2-0 by a Neymar-inspired Brazil. The midfielder suffered a knock at The Emirates and, although he has stated that he’ll be ready for this weekend’s clash with Fulham, manager Ian Holloway will need a fully-fit Adam to inspire his team through the rest of the season.
After Fulham this Sunday, Blackpool face a struggling Arsenal who will surely be looking to re-state their claim for the Premier League title. Following that, three bottom-half teams visit Bloomfield Road. Blackpool cannot afford to lose to Wigan, Newcastle or Stoke, especially when their final three fixtures put them up against Tottenham, Bolton and Manchester United.
If Blackpool are to stay up this season, their form is going to have to drastically change instantly. A win against Fulham would certainly set them on their way and, to steer clear of the drop, they’re going to need to be tactically shrewd and adopt a win-at-all-costs attitude.
Blackpool have played some brilliant football this season which is remarkable baring in mind that, at the beginning of the season, everyone was writing them off. Gary Taylor-Smith, DJ Campbell and Luke Varney have played above and beyond themselves and have contributed to Blackpool scoring forty-five goals this season. Their defence, though, is a completely different matter.
The game against Manchester United in January pretty much sums up Blackpool as a team. In the first half, Holloway’s side battered United, taking a 2-0 lead into half-time after attacking with great fluidity. In the second half, United came back in roaring fashion, scoring three goals in sixteen minutes to destroy a helpless Blackpool.
Blackpool might not have the best squad on paper but, when it comes to actually playing on the pitch, in a unit, they are fantastic to watch and have been a revelation this season. They’re stuck in the middle of some woeful form but form can change. A win against Fulham won’t save their season, but it could set them on their way to survival.

These articles were originally published on Sports Haze. 

5 Key Players for Roy Hodgson at West Brom


Roy Hodgson was confirmed as West Brom manager yesterday after suffering a torrid time at Liverpool. The 63-year-old will be looking to get his managerial career back on track and, to do that, he’s going to need these five players.

Peter Odemwingie
The Nigerian striker had an explosive start to his Premier League career as he scored an 81st-minute winner against Sunderland on his debut after he signed for £1 million from Lokomotiv Moscow back in August 2010. Odemwingie, who has made 49 appearances for his country and scored 9 goals, is just shy of 6ft. tall and it is his physical presence, as well his speed and finishing ability, that makes him a threat to all defences. The 29-year-old can also play out wide on the right wing and likes to come inside across the back-line and he is the current top goalscorer for the Baggies, with nine goals in eight League appearances. If Hodgson is to play a 4-5-1 formation, which he did at Fulham and Liverpool most frequently, then Odemwingie would be the perfect lone-striker.
Chris Brunt
When Hodgson guided Fulham to the Europa League final in the 2009/2010 season, he had wingers who could deliver a pin-point cross from both wings. Irishman Damien Duff was the main man on the left and, on the right, either Clint Dempsey or Simon Davies were used. Chris Brunt, then, is an ideal player for Hodgson. The 26-year-old Northern Ireland international has made the most assists this season for West Brom (8) and his ability to play in ever position across midfield will be of great use to Hodgson. Brunt has been found on both wings this season and his pace, technique and ability on a dead ball situation will be of huge use to Hodgson. Brunt has been found playing in an attacking midfield role for West Brom this season but it is out on the wings where he is most effective.
Jerome Thomas
Another technical and determined player, Jerome Thomas should be able to forge an understanding with Brunt, meaning that Brunt and the Arsenal academy graduate could be seen switching wings to confuse full-backs this season. Thomas’ five assists and two goals this campaign make him a great source of creativity and his pace will terrify defences all over the country. Thomas has made every one of his twenty appearances on the left-wing this season, but his ability to cut inside and use his favoured right foot means that he will probably be used on both wings under Hodgson.
Youssuf Mulumbu
At Fulham, Hodgson used a variety of central midfielders, from the likes of Danny Murphy, Chris Baird, Jonathan Greening and Dickson Etuhu. In Mulumbu, Hodgson has an athletic, strong and powerful defensive midfielder who will sit in front of the defence and allow those in front of him to attack at will. Mulumbu also likes to roam forward at times and his two goals this season, against Blackpool and Fulham, show that the French-born Congolese 24-year-old can suit a variety of roles. Mulumbu has been sent off twice this campaign (against  Manchester City and Everton) but Hodgson’s teams are well known for having an excellent disciplinary record – only one player (Kagiso Dikgacoi) was sent off in the League for Fulham in Hodgson’s last year in charge.
Paul Scharner
Since Scharner joined Wigan in 2006, the Austrian international has been known as one of the most versatile players in the League. The 30-year-old can play at centre-back or at centre-midfield, as well as at full-back. While Scharner may not be the most gifted of players in terms of ability, his versatility and box-to-box attitude should be well utilised by Hodgson for the remainder of this season. Scharner’s skill in the air also makes him a threat at corners, shown by the fact that both his goals this season have been headers. Scharner was mainly used as a central-midfielder by Roberto Di Matteo but, under Hodgson, the former-Austria Wien defender could find himself played more defensively, possibly as a roaming centre-back.

This article originally appeared on sports website Sports Haze but is now unavailable due to the site closing down.
Picture from nicksarebi

Premier League Preview: West Bromwich Albion

My Premier League previews continue with yo-yo club West Brom now the team to focus on. After last season’s impressive promotion campaign, will West Brom stick with their policy of playing attractive football, sacrificing the winning of matches?

Some good transfers and an already good squad might not be enough for West Brom this season. Their main rivals staying clear of relegation this season are going to be Newcastle and Bolton, who look to have stronger squads. Albion, though, certainly have some quality.
Former Leeds and Liverpool, and at one time England, goalkeeper remained with West Brom when they were relegated to the Championship after signing for the Baggies in 2008. West Brom have got a decent set of goalkeepers with vastly experienced Dean Kiely and new recruit Boaz Myhill ready to battle it out for the number two spot. The defence in front of them, however, is not so impressive. Gianni Zuiverloon and Marek Cech may be promising names in their own countries, Holland and Slovakia respectively, but they are yet to show any signs of being ready for the pace of the Premier League. Nicky Shorey has recently signed from Aston Villa and the left-back gives the side some much needed Premier League experience. Abdoulaye Meite may have been a strong centre-back in the Premier League for Bolton but the Ivory Coast international looks less than stable in defence. West Brom look very weak at the back.
One to look out for next season is Joe Mattock. The former Leicester left-back played twenty-seven times for Albion last season and can look forward to a decent run in the team this time round. Mattock, though, could find it difficult in the Premier League, especially in a defence that is already very vulnerable.
The midfield of the team isn’t exactly solid either. Chris Brunt is a fine winger and his creativity will be important to the Baggies this season, as will the eagerness and determination of Giles Barnes. The former Derby midfielder joined West Brom in January this year but only managed to play eight times in the Championship. Graham Dorrans has been the subject of transfer speculation during the summer but now looks to be ready to slog out the season with Robert Di Matteo’s team. The fact that West Brom have an inexperienced manager could also count against them; the forty-year-old gained his only managerial experience at MK Dons prior to signing for West Brom in 2009. James Morrison is another creative player but that creativity could all go to waste due to the lack of prominent strikers at West Brom.
Roman Bednar, Luke Moore and Ishmael Miller are the only notable strikers on Di Matteo’s squad. Between them they have scored 101 goals in 420 club appearances. This is simply not good enough and the club really need to find a striker that can score them goals. West Brom desperately need to divulge in the transfer market if they are to get anywhere near to staying up this season.
Where will they finish?: 17th
Official relegation odds: 5/6 (Bet365)
Star man: Chris Brunt
One to watch: Joe Mattock
Main weakness: The sheer lack of Premier League quality and severe lack of decent strikers means that West Brom are going to seriously struggle this season.