West Brom v Huddersfield: Can the Cowleys give the Terriers some bite?
They have tasted victory just once in the last 10 months.
But the arrival of Danny Cowley at Huddersfield means Albion are in for a very different kind of test when the two teams meet on Sunday.
After three hugely successful years at Lincoln – that saw the Imps win two promotions and the EFL Trophy – Cowley and his brother Nicky opted to leave Sincil Bank for a shot at the Championship earlier this month.
The workaholic duo – who were employed as PE teachers for 15 years – have inherited a club bereft of confidence.
And while their first job is to stop the rot that started under David Wagner and continued under Jan Siewert, their innovative approach means Albion have to be wary ahead of their visit to The Hawthorns.
Over the past few years, the Cowley brothers have proven themselves to be amongst the most tactically flexible coaches in the lower divisions.
The Lincoln side they built was very direct in the National League and when they won promotion from League Two last year.
But after making another step up in class, they made more tweaks and signed Tyler Walker and Jack Payne – two of the most creative number 10s in the division.
The Imps, with better players, have played better football.
But their main threat has always been from set-pieces. Something the Cowley’s will now take to Huddersfield.
And that is where Albion really have to be wary this weekend.
Cast your mind back to the 2018 World Cup where England were so successful from set-pieces and corners.
Prior to that competition, they hadn’t scored a set-piece goal in a tournament since 2010.
But they kept coming up with new ideas – with one of them seeing four players all form a line before quickly dispersing when the ball came in. That approach first stemmed from the Cowley’s who spend hours every week coming up with fresh set-piece ideas.
That work certainly is worth it – with Lincoln scoring 38 times from dead balls last season.
Set-pieces are sure to be an area they try and exploit on Sunday.
Overall, though, the Cowley’s have inherited a squad that is too technical to be overly direct.
And that means it’s going to be very interesting to see how they progress.
Against Sheffield Wednesday last week, they still played a possession based game.
In total, they had 62 per cent possession, with centre-backs Christopher Schindler and Tommy Elphick spending a lot of time on the ball.
But after falling behind, they struggled to create chances. And that is why – with Huddersfield having only scored five times in the league this season – the innovative approach the Cowley’s take to set-pieces will be even more crucial.
In many ways the bothers will see their trip to The Hawthorns as a free hit.
Their aim for the season – following The Terriers’ dreadful start – is simply to avoid another relegation.
But they produced numerous upsets in the FA Cup while in charge of Lincoln.
And they’ll now back themselves to go on and shock Albion on their own turf.
n Albion look set to lose under-23s boss Michael Appleton following the Cowleys’ decision to leave Lincoln.
The 43-year-old only agreed to take charge of Albion’s under-23s outfit last month following a restructure to the club’s academy.
But he is understood to have held advanced talks with the Imps’ board.
And he is now odds on with the bookmakers to take charge at Sincil Bank with an announcement expected as soon as today.