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Comment: Control has replaced chaos, but clean sheets must follow for West Brom

West Bromwich Albion | Published:

This season has been a breath of fresh air, but for many observers, Albion’s leaky defence is the current barrier to automatic promotion.

Craig Dawson in action against Norwich. (AMA)

After conceding late on to Norwich City, former Baggies defender Daryl Burgess tweeted: “I keep saying it... and get shouted down by certain factions BUT we can’t keep having to score at least two to win games.....we need to keep more clean sheets!”

Albion’s paltry figure of three clean sheets is the joint-worst record in the division.

Only rock-bottom Ipswich are as bad as shutting out the opposition as the Baggies.

You also have to go down to 12th place to find a team that has conceded more than the 35 goals they have let in this season.

The Baggies may be the division’s top scorers, but they are currently sitting in fourth. Goals win you games, defence wins you titles.

However, there have been signs over the past few weeks that Albion’s back line is becoming more frugal.

Since switching to a back four, the Baggies have let in 11 goals in 11 games.

Only one team in the whole division – Sheffield United (9) – have let in fewer goals in the same amount of time.

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That back four has also been strengthened this month, and based on his first two games for the club, Mason Holgate will be a shrewd acquisition for the rest of the season.

Albion’s back-line has a Premier League tinge to it now. One full-back has more than 220 appearances for Arsenal, the other is an up-and-coming defender with nearly 50 appearances for Everton.

In between them is Craig Dawson and Ahmed Hegazi, a centre-back partnership with a remarkably high win percentage.

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For 80 minutes, that defence held firm against Norwich City, the next highest scorers in the division behind Albion alongside Villa.

The goals up the other end have slightly dried up. At one point in October, Moore’s devastating attack were on course to score a staggering 120 goals this season, but that has dropped to less than 95 now.

That's still a significant amount, and would be more than champions Wolves managed last season, but losing the magic feet of Harvey Barnes could dent that further.

It was always going to be difficult to keep up that ridiculous scoring rate throughout the campaign, but what’s encouraging is that goals are not flying in Sam Johnstone's goal with such frequency.

Control has replaced chaos, and despite a three-game winless streak, the Baggies look far more convincing.

Burgess is right, they need to keep more clean sheets if they’re going to finish in the automatic places.

The current top two have 20 shut-outs so far between them.

But there are encouraging signs at the back to suggest Albion will add to their paltry three so far.

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