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Talking Tactics

O'Shea and Townsend making West Brom harder to beat

Adrian Clarke 11 Mar 2021
West Brom

Adrian Clarke says Crystal Palace will face a tougher test than in this season's reverse fixture

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points in Matchweek 28.

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West Bromwich Albion must continue their improved defensive displays if they are to claim a second away win this season when they travel to Crystal Palace.

Sam Allardyce's side have become harder to break down and have conceded only two goals across their last five matches.

In each of those outings West Brom allowed their opponents fewer shots than their season average of 15.04.

West Brom's last five matches
Opponents Shots faced Score
Newcastle 9 D 0-0
Everton 11 L 1-0
Brighton 15 W 1-0
Burnley 6 D 0-0
Man Utd 10 D 1-1

In engaging their opponents much higher up the pitch, they are a less passive side without the ball than they were earlier in the campaign.

While defensive midfielder Okay Yokuslu has made an impact since joining in January, it is Allardyce's tactical change that has sparked an improvement from his defence.

Palace beat West Brom 5-1 at The Hawthorns in December, but they will find it far more competitive this time around.

Unsung hero

One of the unsung stars of West Brom’s upturn in form is Dara O’Shea.

The versatile defender has featured in several positions across the backline but has shone brightly in the centre, where he has partnered Kyle Bartley.

In January, 22-year-old O'Shea was replaced just 24 minutes into their 2-2 draw against Fulham after struggling to handle striker Aleksandar Mitrovic.

O’Shea’s response to that experience has been a positive one, helping his side keep three clean sheets in the last four matches.

Highlights of West Brom's last win

He has since shown more authority in his duels and has quickly regained the trust of his head coach.

Shackling Christian Benteke, Wilfried Zaha and Jordan Ayew will prove a challenge, but O'Shea is playing well enough to stand up to that trio.

O'Shea's defensive influence
Last four matches Total Success rate
Aerial duels won 13 86.6%
Total duels won 19 76.0%

Left-back Conor Townsend has also been in terrific form of late.

In the goalless draw with Newcastle United last weekend, he made five key passes and delivered eight crosses from open play.

Townsend is looking increasingly confident as a top-flight player and has struck up a good partnership with striker Mbaye Diagne.

Comfortable in possession and defensively solid, Townsend is now an integral member of Allardyce’s back four.

Now that West Brom appear to have sorted their issues in defence, Allardyce will hope his attackers can rise to the occasion and give him a victory against his former club.

Also in this series

Part 1: Willock can be Newcastle's driving force against Villa
Part 3: Duel between Tierney and Bale can decide the derby
Part 4: Jota return can raise Liverpool's tempo at Wolves

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