East end drama provides few clues for West Brom - match analysis

A penny for the thoughts of Steve Clarke as Albion put their fans through the wringer at Upton Park.

West Bromwich Albion's James Morrison and West Ham United's Joe Cole compete for the ball
Joe Cole, in action for West Ham against Albion last season

Perhaps a wry smile crept across the former boss’s face, as Nicolas Anelka finally contributed to the Baggies’ cause a couple of weeks too late to help the man for whom his earlier failures proved so costly.

When Saido Berahino capped a fine performance with a fabulous goal, maybe there was a tinge of regret for Clarke at his reluctance to let the youngster off the leash more often.

As Albion fell 1-0 down early on and 3-2 behind in the second half, there might have been a hint of relief that he could sit and watch without the agony of emotional involvement. But when they turned the game around to lead 2-1, then snatched a dramatic late equaliser and so nearly claimed the win, maybe Clarke longed a little for the thrill of being in the dugout.

One thing is certain, afterwards, when French Twittersphere went berserk over Anelka’s ill-judged goal celebration, we can be sure Clarke was delighted to be nowhere near the media firestorm ignited by the striker, who let him down so badly after his show of faith in the summer.

A penny, too, for the thoughts of Clarke’s potential successors now No.1 contender Pepe Mel appears to have fallen by the wayside in the increasingly lengthy race for the job.

On one hand, those candidates taking a watching brief on Saturday must have been encouraged by the spirit in the Baggies’ camp, and by the talent some of their attacking players showed in scoring three goals in the East End.

The sight of Berahino flourishing in his preferred central position and Anelka finally making his presence felt will doubtless encourage whoever gets the job.

Yet the defending that allowed a very poor Hammers side to net three goals of their own might well give potential bosses nightmares, as they contemplate a fight against relegation on the back of a January transfer window which seems unlikely to see much change to the Hawthorns squad.

Furore

And the furore that followed Anelka’s actions surely had the candidates wondering if life in the glare of the Premier League spotlight would be worth all the hassle, regardless of the healthy pay packet that awaits the new boss.

That was the final, taxing issue on a draining day for Keith Downing.

And yet the caretaker head coach, who could hold the reins for a while longer as the Baggies move on from the Mel saga, seemed to enjoy himself once again as his side took everyone on a breathless rollercoaster of emotions on a highly-charged lunchtime in London.

Downing certainly had reasons to smile.

His recalling of Anelka two months after his last appearance paid off handsomely when it might have backfired spectacularly. So, too, did the decision to field Berahino for the first time as an orthodox centre-forward and the restoration of captain Chris Brunt to the midfield.

But there were other reminders that life in the big chair is not a bed of roses, as Downing watched his team’s defending exploited all too easily as the omission of Claudio Yacob left his three centre-backs without much-needed protection.

The continued show of faith in a three-man central defence also worked against him as two games in three days proved too much for the rash Diego Lugano and the Irons’ midfield runners turned out to be harder to cope with than Tottenham’s orthodox front two on Boxing Day.

Credit to Downing, though, for the second-half change that saw Lugano withdrawn, a back-four restored and Albion placed on the front foot and eventually claiming the point which was the least they deserved from a thriller of a contest.

The signs did not look promising for Downing and Co when they fell behind just four minutes into the game as Lugano chased the ball, Joe Cole exchanged passes with Kevin Nolan and darted in to open the scoring with aplomb.

And they might have been killed off when a Carlton Cole knock-down found Guy Demel in a promising position, but they were reprieved when his shot struck Ben Foster’s left-hand upright.

Yet the Baggies turned the game on its head in six minutes at the end of the first half. In the 40th minute Youssouf Mulumbu found Brunt, who produced a wonderful, early through-ball with the outside of his foot to send Anelka clear and allow the Frenchman a cool finish.

Then Jonas Olsson’s header from a Brunt corner was blocked on the line with Anelka forcing home the rebound.

From nowhere, Albion led at the break.

Anelka fired too close to Jussi Jaaskelainen early in the second half from a Billy Jones cross and Berahino bent a cross-shot just wide as the Baggies chased the goal that might have killed off their hosts.

Then, suddenly, two goals in three minutes saw the Hammers transform the game.

Foster had just made a fine save to deny Modibo Maiga when the Baggies keeper made a howler, allowing the half-time substitute’s strike to sneak past him for an equaliser after more poor defending. And then, with disappointment still raw, Maiga headed down Mark Noble’s cross and Nolan forced the ball home for a 3-2 lead.

Yet just two more minutes had passed before Brunt fed Berahino, who made a mug of Demel and blasted a perfect cross-shot home off the far post to level things.

And with nine minutes remaining, Brunt was fouled on the edge of the area and Berahino’s excellent free-kick whacked against the woodwork.

It left Albion delighted with a point yet frustrated that a chance for all three had gone begging. In many ways, it was a fitting way to end a year that has included so many highs and its fair share of lows.

For Clarke, it was a day for reflection. For Downing, it was a game of thrills.

And for the new boss, it was a fascinating window on the challenge he faces.

Comments for: "East end drama provides few clues for West Brom - match analysis"

johnstanley1954babe

claudio yakob must play when fit claudio yakob an d mulumbu are the only 2 players in our midfield who tackle properly the two take extra pressure of the defence . yakob as made more tackles in total this season than any one .albion concede more goals in premier matches when morrison plays and yacob does not just analyse the stats. also yakob as made 70 tackles in the league this season 70 in total i rest my case come on you baggies

CantelloRocket 78

Having made changes with players and formations over Christmas, it'll be interesting to see how KD sets his team up against Newcastle-

the appointment of a new Head Coach has been pushed a little into the background, but I'm currently enjoying Keith's approach, on the pitch the players seem to be fairly unaffected by SC's departure, so hopefully there's still a good unity around the place - it'll be good if the fans can get behind 'em on NYD.

COYB.

Jack the Hat

Cantello,

Good post mate, but our defence needs to look at itself, too many errors at West Ham. All three goals against us were slip-ups.

Match of the Day were discussing the violent tackles in the Chelsea v Liverpool match. Never heard them say anything about the blood curdling treatment we came under against Whammers. You can only buy the video if you are over forty and with your dad's written permission.

BOING~~~~BOING~~~~J♣H.

WakeyBaggie

More to the point how on earth has Lugano earned a place in the team, slow, rash in the ttackle and no positional sense makes him a liability. What on earth must Dawson be feeling to be behind that clown?????

Jack the Hat

Wakey,

Y'know what I'm thinking about Lugano mate?. Ring rust, when he comes good he will do a good job. Don't forget our football is a lot faster than what he is used to. I'm willing to give him time to gel.

BOING~~~~BOING~~~~J♣H.

Jack the Hat

Steve Clarke should have had the temerity to have changed the system / format and timing of substitutions. Before anyone yells " Horse, Gate ", our fans have been on about these changes for " Yonks ". We were all praying Steve would see the light.

BOING~~~~BOING~~~~J♣H.

Danish Baggie

We need to play Barahino in every game. He's Young, and not overloaded so far, so just play him.

We need to sort out Ridgewell, or get someone in next month.

Other than that, we have loads of options and I think we will be fine.

Wonder why Clarke are not in the running ( bookies ) for the Cardiff job ??

bob.williamsfindlay

At least Downing was brave enough to change the system when needed. The build up to one of Hammers' goals saw Ridgewell looking like a rabbit caught in the headlights - left side of defence has two inadequate players. Worried about strength of Newcastle against Liam on Wednesday .

DwarfzappA

I acknowledge our London stop over and I am chuft we came away unbeaten, but for me the most important thing is rediscovering of our defensive duties.

Hodgson addressed this problem, he 'truly hated' conceding goals, he used to blow a fuse. A top coach came along, and over a period of time he reversed the good work Hodgson had put in ;-))

This Albion team function better all round when we play two holding players in front of the back four. We have to recapture the defensive discipline that was originally installed by Hodgson and Downing.

them Baggie boys

DwarfzappA

Maybe not what I said above > ''We have to recapture the defensive discipline''

The manager/coach implement defensive discipline, some managers specialise in this regardless of what players they might have available.

I understand Pulis aint everyone's cup of tea but what is he doing at Palace, the very same players are disciplined defensively we saw pretty much the same under Giles.

keep em out

cashy59

It was a pleasure to see us play open, passing, attacking football but defensive frailties let us down again - or was it down to playing a new system in defence and players not used to it ? I would have settled for a point before the game but feel we lost two, but now team on upward curve after two hard away games and cofidence seems to becoming back as we didn't sit back too often !!! ( or was that S.C. tactics ) The future's bright it's BLUE and WHITE !!!!!! C.O.Y.B.

Jack the Hat

cashy59,

We can now see our rapid passing, accurate football returning and as you imply, the defence just needs to get its pertinacity back by tweaking it.

BOING~~~~BOING~~~~J♣H.

Jack the Hat

Worcester,

I agree and we all know Ben needs to sharpen his game, only natural after so long out with injury. I would be inclined to give him some more matches, if the situation still persists then change keepers, at least until a marked improvement by Ben to challenge once again. After saying all that I could only blame him for one goal that we conceded against the Whammers.

BOING~~~~BOING~~~~J♣H.

Cyril

Hold on you lot. I have thoroughly enjoyed Keith Downing's approach to football. He's got 3 draws and it could easily have been a win in one or two of them Also, he has given his squad a chance in their proper positions. He doesn't need amateurs like us to tell him what to do. We have played some lovely stuff, scored some goals and shipped in as many but not for a minute have I been bored. Emotionally it's been exhausting, but what the Hell do we watch it for ? Some who've been written off are doing well. OK, you still want to shoot a few, but you're wrong on that too. I won't be able to read your replies until tonight as a couple of family computers have bitten the dust, so sharpen your daggers.

CantelloRocket 78

Cyril,

KD knows he won't be in charge for long, and he's taken over at a very busy time, so - as you say - he's trying a few things out.It can all change in the near future with a new Head Coach, so being hyper-critical at present is a bit harsh, and maybe a little unneccessary.

I guess it depends on attitude, if we lose we usually get a much larger than average response with full flowing complaints, so if we're not losing, some people get frustrated, and have to find a different angle to moan about.

I blame the 'Eastenders effect' - millions tune in every week to be 'entertained' by a bunch of people staring daggers at each other, arguing, and grabbing each other's throats-

I haven't watched it for years, but when I catch a glimpse whilst 'channel hopping' it still looks the same - negative and sooo depressssing.

I don't wear 'rose tinted specs', but I do know it takes the same amount of time and effort to be positive and creative as it does to be negative and destructive - but one of these states makes you feel MUCH BETTER than the other, and stops you reaching for the valium - so for me, it's a no-brainer........:-)

Cyril

Rocket, quite right about East Enders. Far too vitriolic for my taste. Keith had enough sense to realise he couldn't lose really. He couldn't do worse than what was happening, the players would want to show they could perform and the psychology of giving them all a go in their rightful positions was a challenge they dare not refuse. He even had the nous to talk to Steve Clarke about things, Steve still being officially on the pay roll. No danger of the East Stand nodding off on Wednesday.

CantelloRocket 78

Worcester wolfboy-

you can look at Foster as much as you like-

it's gotta be better than keep watching third division players, eh......??..lol......

Captain Mardon International

Mulumbo had too much to do against the hammers, Jacob is needed to help Mulumbo thread the ball through to attack.

That's my opinion anyway.