It’s been a case of back to the drawing board for West Brom’s defence this week ahead of their trip to Tottenham Hotspur. Albion has routinely permitted opponents to help themselves to a couple of goals a game since pretty much the entirety of the time from the beginning of December; indeed, bizarrely, the only two sides who haven’t scored at least two goals have been Manchester City – who made up for it upon their recent visit to The Hawthorns – and champions Liverpool. Some don’t need more than two to beat Albion. Others, like Leeds, Crystal Palace and Arsenal, have rubbed their noses in the dirt. Only Wolves have not been able to deny them from outscoring them at the other end of the pitch, and that Molineux result rather bucks the Baggies trend. Sheffield United were the latest victors this week when they came from behind to break down a rather brittle Albion resistance and inflict a severely damaging defeat in the battle of the basement clubs at Bramall Lane.
Sam Allardyce said: “It’s about concentration. You’ve got to admit and look at our players – very few of them have played in the Premier League You’ve got Robert Snodgrass, you’ve got Jake Livermore. Kieran Gibbs, Robson-Kanu came on on Tuesday and he’s got a bit of Premier League experience. The rest of them are finding out what the Premier League is all about. They’re suffering for it because they’re getting punished by the small errors, which you don’t get punished for in the Championship but you do in the Premier League. That’s particularly defensively. Sam Johnstone didn’t have any difficult saves to make – I don’t think he had particularly much chance with the two goals, but those two goals were very avoidable for our point of view. They weren’t clear cut chances and they weren’t clear cut goals. We had enough bodies in that area to have blocked out those shots and unfortunately we didn’t.”
It’s the small case of Spurs next, who even without Harry Kane and in their recent run of poor form will fancy their chances to arrest their mini-slump when Albion visit their brand new stadium, though there could be a couple of new faces in Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Okay Yokuslu to bolster Albion. In the meantime, boss Sam Allardyce is having to drill into his defenders exactly what they must do to deny teams and shut opposition out entirely. The responsibility of transferring those lessons and skills from the training pitch onto the competitive surface on any given match-day, though, rests purely on the shoulders of the players themselves. Indeed until now the campaign has proved to be one steep learning curve for a group made up largely of top flight novices.
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