Sep 122014

Match:  West Bromwich Albion v Everton FC

Date:  September 12, 2014 (3pm kick off)

Manager: Alan Irvine. A man that needs no introduction to Evertonians after spending three years at Goodison Park as a player and the past three years as manager of the club’s academy. He also served as David Moyes’ assistant on Merseyside before leaving to take up the manager’s position at Preston North End in November 2007.

After getting the club into the playoffs in his first full season in charge, he was sacked in December 2009 after the 2009/10 season started poorly. No sooner than a month later, he took charge of Sheffield Wednesday but ultimately couldn’t keep them in the Championship, suffering relegation on the final day of the season. He was dismissed in 2010/11 with Wednesday 12th in League One before joining the Blues that summer.

He has a big reputation in terms of promoting and developing youth players, which made him an attractive option for West Brom, who were looking to rebuild after a few years of instability. His football is rigid and well-drilled, and he will look to make the Baggies hard to beat.

Form: A promising opening day performance against Sunderland unfurled due to poor defending and ended in a 2-2 draw, while the stalemate away to Southampton represented a much better point. However, like Everton, two draws followed a three-goal defeat, with the Baggies being boinged 3-0 by Swansea at the Liberty Stadium. They now sit 18th, one place above Everton.

How they’ll set up: West Brom are still a side transitioning into Irvine’s methods; likewise, the 56-year-old Scot is still adapting to the travails of a Premier League manager and must still discover his best side. In terms of system, West Brom will be organised, disciplined and solid. At home, against Sunderland, they enjoyed more possession and spent fewer passes long than they did in their two away games.

Whether this represents a more patient, probing style at the Hawthorns – in comparison to the defensive counter-attacking style on the road –  remains to be seen.

Irvine has largely lined them up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Ben Foster is their no.1 goalkeeper and appears fit after an injury scare during international week; in front of him, on-loan Liverpool youngster Andre Wisdom plays on the right, while the brutish Jonas Olsson is a long-term centre back. Craig Dawson has played alongside him in the opening three games, but Joleon Lescott’s potential return to fitness offers a defensive dilemma; Lescott is predominately a left-sided centre back, as is Olsson, so shifting Olsson to the right may be necessary. On the left, Sebastien Pocognoli would appear first-choice.

Two midfielders hold with one given licence to move forward, but with Youssouf Mulumbu unlikely to recover from hamstring injury, Irvine has a big hole to fill alongside Craig Gardner. He is likely opt for Chris Baird, who can play both full back or defensive midfield, and will be able to sit deep and allow Gardner to push forward.

The front four will interchange and the ball will be given to Saido Berahino. The 21-year-old can play in any of the front four positions and is their likeliest source of a goal, whether scoring or creating it.

Striker Brown Ideye, a £10m signing from Dynamo Kyiv, who is likely to start up front – although former Blue Victor Anichebe could feature if he’s fit. Behind him, Chris Brunt and Graham Dorrans are safer options that have been used this season, but new signings Giorgos Samaras, Sebastian Blanco or Silvestre Varela could easily play in the three behind the striker.

Sum them up in 140 characters: Former Blue boy at helm in attempt to stop Baggies becoming a boing-boing side once more. Safe but unknown. Always last on Match of the Day.

Three players to watch:

Saido Berahino: Two goals in three games this season, as well as two goals for England Under-21s in Moldova on Tuesday, demonstrates the talent Berahino possesses. Quick, intelligent and good with the ball at his feet, the Burundi-born forward has become the main man at West Brom.

He can play either behind the striker, on the right of a front three or even lead the line; his 89.2% pass accuracy this season shows how he likes to bring others into play, and will often come deep to involve himself more. However, he has been dispossessed 13 times in three games, highlighting he can give the ball away.

Jonas Olsson: How Irvine will deploy his vice-captain is interesting, and could provide Everton with something to target. With Lescott potentially moving to the left side of central defence, Olsson would shift to the right – something he isn’t usually aware of. It may throw him off his game.

Everton will hope so. Olsson is a rough customer, all elbows and scowls, who looks to dominate in the air. He has won 10 of his 15 aerial battles this season and will seek to bully Romelu Lukaku. He is also a threat at the other end at six foot five.

Victor Anichebe: His hernia injury will be assessed before the game, but what part could the former Everton striker play? He is strong, powerful and will have a point to prove against his former employers; give him a chance, and he will do his all to show the Blues and Roberto Martinez what they are missing.

Of course, with Lukaku and Samuel Eto’o at the club, Anichebe would have been unlikely to find himself playing at Goodison. But he can be a nuisance if he plays for West Brom, although he only scored three goals in 24 league games last season.

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 Posted by at 12:06 pm

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