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Talking Tactics

Promoted clubs: West Brom return as more attacking team

Adrian Clarke 7 Aug 2020
West Brom celebrate

Adrian Clarke says Baggies oozed creativity in the Championship but must replace loan players and defend set-pieces better

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical elements of the three clubs joining the Premier League in 2020/21.

West Bromwich Albion

The Baggies will return to the Premier League as a calmer but more attack-minded team.  

Playing out from the back with assurance under Slaven Bilic, West Brom are encouraged to keep the ball patiently before exploding into life in the final third.  

Usually playing in a 4-2-3-1 system, they oozed creativity in the Championship.

West Brom's first 50 goals in 2019/20

Attacking midfielders Matt Phillips and Kamil Grosicki, plus on-loan stars Matheus PereiraGrady Diangana, Callum Robinson and Filip Krovinovic, all offered terrific guile, pace and skill in 2019/20.  

This was the basis of their promotion campaign, and they have since secured the permanent signing of Pereira, their player of the season last term.  

Albion lacked a prolific top scorer, with Charlie Austin and Hal Robson-Kanu scoring just 10 times apiece, yet they still netted 77 league goals, the joint-second best tally behind Brentford 

By comparison, Albion averaged 43 goals per season in their eight consecutive Premier League campaigns before their relegation in 2017/18.

Best record when conceding first
2019/20 Matches Wins Pts earned
West Brom 20 7 25
Swansea 21 5 20
QPR 27 5 20
Luton 29 5 19
Middlesbrough 28 3 16

West Brom were comeback specialists in last season’s Championship.  

They conceded the opening goal on 20 occasions, but only ended up losing seven of those contests.

Displaying grit and resilience under their passionate head coach, Albion averaged 1.25 points per match from 1-0 deficits.  

However, recovering from losing positions will prove much tougher in the top flight.  

Set-piece threat 

The Baggies scored an impressive 18 goals from set-plays, continuing a longstanding strength for the club.

Defenders Semi Ajayi, Dara O'Shea and Kyle Bartley contributed 10 goals between them and are all major threats from corners and wide free-kicks.  

Now Pereira is staying at the club, with his deliveries Albion are likely to score plenty of goals from dead-ball situations in the Premier League too.  

But worryingly for Bilic, his side are not as strong when defending set-plays.  

Sixteen of the 45 goals they conceded last season, or 35.6 per cent, came from corners and wide free-kicks.  

Signings needed

It was West Brom’s attacking quality that inspired their promotion, but many of their key men were loan players. Replacing the quality they lose is of paramount importance.  

The other priority for Bilic this summer will be defensive reinforcements.  

In central midfield he may seek to find a new partner for Romaine Sawyers, and throughout 2019/20 he struggled to settle on a favoured back four.  

His West Brom side did not concede a huge number of goals, but they are likely to have far less of the ball at the higher level.  

The framework of the team must become significantly more robust if they are to avoid shipping a glut of goals this season.

Also in this series

Part 1: Bielsa's Leeds can spring a few surprises
Part 2: Phillips the main man for Leeds
Part 4: Parker's Fulham can learn from the past
Part 5: Hector has transformed Fulham defence
Part 6: Pereira West Brom's creative fulcrum

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