Tactically speaking - West Bromwich Albion

It will be interesting to see if, after taking on Manchester United and Arsenal in their previous two fixtures, West Bromwich Albion stick or twist on Sunday afternoon.

With the game arguably more ‘winnable’ on paper, Baggies boss Tony Pulis may loosen the shackles on his team for their visit to the Boleyn Ground.

Against the Red Devils and the Gunners, Pulis opted for a defensive 4-5-1 formation, with two touchline-hugging wingers and a lone centre forward in Venezuelan Salomon Rondon.

Typically for a Pulis-managed team, West Brom played with a direct style in both fixtures, getting the ball forward quickly at any opportunity, both from set pieces and in open play.

No team in the Premier League sees less of the ball than West Brom, who average 42.7 per cent of possession, while their pass-completion percentage of 72.1 is higher than just one other club – top side Leicester City!

Unsurprisingly, those possession stats have led to just 9.1 shots per game – again, worst in the division, and just 3.0 shots on target per 90 minutes. Only two teams, Stoke City and Aston Villa, have scored less than the 12 goals the Baggies have managed in their 13 league matches.

When out of possession, which is often, the Throstles retreat into a compact flat back four and solid bank of five midfielders in front of them.

Claudio Yacob is the defensive midfield lynchpin, sitting in the centre of the pitch and providing the positional base for his two slightly more advanced colleagues Darren Fletcher and James Morrison.

Yacob is statistically vital to West Brom’s defensive set up, making more tackles and interceptions (41 each) than any other player. Unsurprisingly, he has also committed more fouls (20) than any other West Brom player.
Out wide, with Stephane Sessegnon on the right and Saido Berahino, Craig Gardner or Callum McManaman on the left, the wingers will also track their runners and support their respective full-backs. Going forward, Sessegnon is more likely to go outside his man and cross, rather than drift inside, but McManaman and Gardner are predominantly right-sided and will therefore naturally come infield.

Unlike Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, West Ham can expect to be given more time in possession, with Pulis opting for a less-intensive pressing game than Mauricio Pochettino.

When they have the ball, Morrison and Rondon are the two major threats in the West Brom side.
Indeed, it was when the pair combined against Arsenal that the Baggies looked at their most dangerous, particularly when the Scotland midfielder looked to release the striker in behind the opposition centre-backs and into the channels.

Personnel-wise, Pulis is unlikely to make any unenforced changes to the side which beat Arsenal at The Hawthorns last weekend, but he will be without suspended left-back Chris Brunt.

The Northern Ireland international’s place in the back four could be filled by James McClean, who started on the left wing against the Gunners, with either Gardner, McManaman or Saido Berahino coming into the midfield.

Another Northern Irishman, centre-back Gareth McAuley, is available again after a one-match ban and could be recalled in place of Sweden veteran Jonas Olsson alongside Jonny Evans.

Possible team: (4-5-1) Myhill, Dawson, McAuley, Evans, McClean, Yacob, Fletcher Morrison, Sessegnon, Gardner, Rondon