Tactically speaking - West Bromwich Albion

Tactically speaking

West Ham United have teamed up with football statistics website WhoScored.com to take a closer look at Tuesday's trip to West Bromwich Albion.

In what is expected to be a closely-fought battle, Hammers midfielder Cheikhou Kouyaté and Baggies counterpart Craig Gardner will go head to head at The Hawthorns.

West Ham United

The engine room

West Ham United have teamed up with football stats website WhoScored.com to preview Tuesday's Barclays Premier League trip to West Bromwich Albion.

The Hammers have lost only one of their last six meetings with West Brom and come into the game with the Baggies on the back of a morale-boosting 1-0 home win against Newcastle United. The victory kept West Ham within touching distance of the Champions League places and they will be confident of holding onto their top-five spot when they meet the Baggies.

Alan Irvine's team have lost each of their last three Premier League fixtures. Against a West Ham side that boasts one of the best away records in England's top tier this term, chances are high that the Hammers can make it three wins on the road this season in midweek.

One of those who could play a big role in the encounter is midfielder Cheikhou Kouyaté. The Senegalese signed on at the Boleyn Ground over the summer and has impressed for the east London side. The imposing 24-year-old was important in the 1-0 win over Newcastle, highlighted in his WhoScored.com rating (7.52) in the victory, and a similarly solid performance is hoped for when they face West Brom.

Kouyaté has developed a statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of 'tackling' - he has made 26 in his ten league appearances so far, to rank second behind Mark Noble (34) - and it's this aspect of his game that will be essential against the Baggies. One of West Brom's weaknesses according to WhoScored.com is 'keeping possession of the ball'. The Midlands outfit are prone to conceding possession far too regularly, which only invites pressure on their defence.

The West Ham No8 will press the West Brom midfield, forcing them into errors and in turn, win the ball for his team. This helps create goalscoring chances for the Hammers, which Kouyaté can forge himself. The former Anderlecht man has developed a statistically calculated style of play of 'likes to dribble' - he has embarked on 12 so far this season - and Kouyaté can use his power to charge forward when in possession to help punch a hole in the Baggies backline.

With games set to come thick and fast as we near the hectic festive period, a victory to start December would be ideal. West Brom have one of the worst home records in the league this season and Kouyaté could have a big part to play if West Ham are to secure all three points at The Hawthorns on Tuesday.

*WhoScored.com is a website and one of the fastest growing in the sports industry, specialising in the in-depth analysis of detailed football data. Follow @WhoScored on Twitter.

West Bromwich Albion

Possible starting XI


Gamboa  Dawson  Lescott  Wisdom

Mulumbu  Gardner

Dorrans  Sessegnon  Brunt


The formation

Like so many Barclays Premier League sides this season, West Bromwich Albion have favoured a 4-2-3-1 formation in the majority of their matches - eight out of 13 so far.

On just two occasions has manager Alan Irvine opted to play with two centre forwards, with the young and lively Saido Berahino more often than not being supported by three attacking midfielders.

Albion have used a 4-4-2 twice and a 4-4-1-1 on three occasions, but have picked up just two draws from those five matches, meaning the 4-2-3-1 is also by far the most successful system utilised by Irvine during his first few months in charge.;

As always, 4-2-3-1 relies on attacking full-backs and midfielders who are prepared to pull wide to offer width, while the two deep-lying midfielders are expected to give protection to the back four.

The playing style

Perhaps West Brom's biggest problem this season has been keeping the ball. With an average pass-completion percentage of 78%, the Baggies enjoy just 48% of possession per game.

Too often, promising attacks have floundered in the final third of the pitch, meaning West Brom create just 10.9 shots and three shots on target on average - ranking them 15th and 18th in the Barclays Premier League in those respective categories.

Going forward, Berahino and Stephane Sessegnon are integral to West Brom's attacking play. Still only 21, the recent England call-up has netted seven goals already this term, while no other Baggies player has scored more than one.

He has the pace and awareness to run in behind and is also central to the Baggies' counter-attacking game, staying forward at defensive set pieces.

Sessegnon is a free spirit who will float in the space between the midfield and the striker, creating chances with his dribbling and ability to draw fouls from the opposition. However, his defensive contribution is negligible.

Defensively, the statistical story is more encouraging, with West Brom ranking near or in the middle of the pack in tackles, interceptions, clearances and blocks made.

With that being the case, it is no surprise that the Baggies have conceded a middle-ranking 18 goals in their opening 13 matches - good enough for joint-tenth in the top-flight so far.

However, West Brom's defensive organisation may be tested by the absence of Belgian left-back Sebastien Pocognoli, who is an injury doubt, with Andre Wisdom, Australian Jason Davidson or Northern Irishman Chris Baird set to take his place and Costa Rican Cristian Gamboa starting at right-back.

The players

Coming into the game on the back of three straight defeats, Irvine may be tempted to make changes to his starting XI.

The reliable England international Ben Foster will start in goal, while Joleon Lescott will also be in the side at left centre-back. Alongside Lescott will be Craig Dawson, who has started all 13 league games this term.

Lescott and Dawson have held the fort in the absence of influential Sweden international Jonas Olsson, who has a long-term Achilles injury.

As menti;oned above, the full-back positions are less certain, with Pocognoli's dead leg making his appearance doubtful.

In midfield, Youssouf Mulumbu and Craig Gardner pick themselves as Argentine Claudio Yacob serving the final game of a three-match suspension.

Gardner is hugely important to West Brom, making more tackles (44) and interceptions (34) than any other player. The former Sunderland man has also unleashed 25 shots, second only to Berahino (34) and the second-highest number of passes (530) in the squad. On the flip side, he has also conceded more fouls (24) than any other.

Club captain Chris Brunt and Graham Dorrans are both regular starters in the wide attacking positions alongside Sessegnon. However, Scotland international James Morrison could return to the squad if he recovers from a knee injury.

Up front, Berahino is an automatic starter, but he could be joined by the powerful Nigerian Victor Anichebe if Irvine opts to play with two central strikers.

Neither Anichebe's international colleague Brown Ideye nor Greece front man Georgios Samaras appear to be in Irvine's plans when it comes to starting matches.