West Bromwich Albion sit just one place above the relegation zone, loitering above Sunderland on goal difference having played a game more and former manager Steve Clarke has come out and said that they may struggle to avoid relegation. With just 12 games remaining in the Premier League season, how much danger are The Baggies actually under?
For any team facing the drop, home form is vital. Pepe Mel is unbeaten at home in the league despite not picking up any wins. Albion earned three credible points against Everton, Liverpool and Chelsea but will have to build on that. Next up The Hawthorns is Fulham, where draws must turn into wins if West Brom can stand any chance of avoiding the drop.
There has been plenty of tension around the ground at the moment because of the situation regarding the relegation battle after many secure years, but the crowd will need to get behind the team when the likes of Cardiff and West Ham come to play in the Black Country. Mel and his side will have to turn The Hawthorns into the fortress if they plan on staying up.
It is also important for Mel to stick with a front two and let the pair have a run of games. Vydra, Anelka, Anichebe, Berahino and Thievy have all played under the Spanish coach but he will need to begin to trust a pairing to help them settle and learn off each other. The more game time a strike partnership get the more they learn and play off each other’s game, creating better goal scoring chances for themselves and the team. Mel needs to find his best striking options and trust it.
Mel will also need to make a big decision regarding the left back position. Liam Ridgewell has proven he isn’t good enough to consistently play at the top level and is prone to mistakes. He stands off the ball and offers nothing going forward. Goran Popov is the only other recognised left back in the squad but Chris Brunt has played there in the past and played well. He has a good left foot and being captain, will put his body on the line for the team. Billy Jones is another option as someone who can play left back for the side.
Albion have drew 12 games this season, three more than the nearest Premier League club, after being joint lowest across Europe last season. To stay up West Brom will need to start turning these draws into wins by being more positive in games, or learning how to see games out.
West Brom have the quality in the squad to keep their heads above water this season, but will have to strengthen again in the summer. Key issues in the squad will have to be addressed, especially up front and at left back, but with the likes of Fulham, Sunderland and Hull coming up, The Baggies should drag themselves up the table.