The FourFourTwo Preview: West Brom vs Newcastle
11th plays 12th.
WEST BROM FORM
- Leicester 0-1 WBA (Prem)
- Bournemouth 2-1 WBA (LC)
- WBA 2-2 Palace (Prem)
- WBA 2-2 Man Utd (Prem)
- Liverpool 2-1 WBA (Prem)
- Newcastle 1-0 Liverpool (Prem)
- Man City 0-2 Newcastle (LC)
- Spurs 1-2 Newcastle (Prem)
- Newcastle 1-0 Leicester (Prem)
- Swansea 2-2 Newcastle (Prem)
OK, that’s a little harsh. What only a few weeks ago would have been a six-pointer (you can have these in the first half of the season, right?) has morphed into a clash between two of the league’s form sides.
Newcastle travel to The Hawthorns on the back of three consecutive wins while the Baggies have only lost one of their last six games and even that was a 2-1 defeat at Anfield.
In fact, if we’re to measure this fixture by the form table, it’s fifth (Newcastle) against seventh (West Brom). And no-one saw that coming at the start of the season.
West Brom's season took off after their victory at Spurs. That match set the template for a style of play that has served them well ever since: compact at the back, functional in midfield, clinical up front.
Much of the solidity has come from Joleon Lescott, the former Everton and Manchester City centre-back returning to the first team for that game at White Hart Lane and impressing immediately. His centre-back partner Craig Dawson has benefited from Lescott’s experience, with Baggies fans pushing his claims for England selection.
And speaking of England internationals, Saido Berahino has been lethal as the side’s lone frontman, with seven league goals. If he manages to add to his tally against Newcastle, he’ll become the first West Brom player to score in four successive home games. It’s no surprise that he’s in Roy Hodgson’s England squad.
Newcastle’s run of three victories is down to their forward play too. Signs of their revival had been evident for a while. Against Crystal Palace, they had 18 shots on goal (4 on target), against Hull it was 25 shots (7 on target), while Leicester had to contend with 19 shots (6 on target).
While you may be able to question their competency with that sort of conversion rate, you can’t fault their intention: they were trying to win. The negative mindset you might expect from of a team (and manager) under pressure – for god sake don’t lose – wasn’t apparent.
Which is admirable and perhaps an indication that it was only a matter of time before results began to turn in their favour. Alan Pardew’s side will need to go into Sunday’s game with the same attacking intent if they’re to take anything from this one.
Belgian left-back Sebastian Pocognoli is set to return for the Baggies. Cheick Tiote (calf) is still a fortnight away from a Newcastle return, while Papiss Cisse and Rolando Aarons are doubts. Pardew will be hoping Cisse is available; the Senegalese forward has scored three goals in four Premier League games against Albion.
Key battle: Saido Berahino vs Tim Krul
Sunday’s game could be a simple matter of attack versus defence. Or, more specifically, striker against keeper. Who will come out on top between the league’s third highest scorer and most overworked keeper?
And the reason for this is simple: unlike Newcastle’s frontline, Berahino rarely misses the target. Of his 5 attempts at goal against Burnley, 4 were on target, the fifth just missing the post. He scored 2 goals. It’s a pattern repeated against Sunderland (4 shots, 2 goals), Manchester United (2 shots, 1 goal), Crystal Palace (4 shots, 1 goal). Since he rarely misses, Krul will need to be ready.
Especially as no-one has faced more clear cut chances in the league (21) than the Dutch stopper. And there aren’t many better at converting clear-cut chances right now that the Baggies’ Burundi-born forward. But then Krul does have previous when it comes to last ditch heroics: he holds the record for most saves in a single Premier League match (14), set against Tottenham last season.
While it’s unlikely West Brom will have 31 attempts on goal, it’s very likely that Berahino will hit the target with any effort he does have. Then it’ll be about who comes out on top in a one-on-one.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- WBA 1-0 N’castle (PL, Jan 14)
- N’castle 2-1 WBA (PL, Nov 13)
- WBA 1-1 N’castle (PL, Apr 13)
- N’castle 2-1 WBA (PL, Oct 12)
- WBA 1-3 N’castle (PL, Mar 12)
This is a selection of quotes posted on West Brom’s official Facebook page following the appointment of Alan Irvine: “Sacked by Preston, sacked by Sheffield Wednesday - please tell me how that warrants a job in Premier League. Absolute disgrace!”
“[Jeremy] Peace you have ripped off 16,000 fans of their hard earned money and bought us a first class ticket to the championship.” “What a joke I am totally ashamed this is the final straw, been an Albion fan for 25 years and I won’t be putting any money into the club whilst Peace is in charge.”
Meanwhile for Newcastle, there’s sackpardew.com, a protest website designed to ‘document [Pardew’s] failures as a manager and will continue to highlight them until there is a change.’
Considering this, both managers have done well, with tactical tweaks and adroit player selection putting points on the board and silencing critics. For now...
Facts and figures
- West Brom have only won 3 of their 16 Premier League clashes with the Magpies (D4 L9).
- Newcastle have scored a higher proportion of second half goals than any other top flight team.
- Newcastle are the only team without a goal in the opening 30 mins of a Premier League match this season.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Both sides set out to win but fail to do so. 2-2.