Clarke continues to get it right

Posted by Matthew Evans

The doubters of Steve Clarke's ability as a head coach are probably sitting at a computer right now desperately trying to delete tweets and Facebook posts about the Scot. And that includes me. There was never any doubt over Clarke's ability as a coach, but there were questions about how he would deal with tactics and squad selection.

I thought that the best tactic going into the game with Wigan on Saturday was to play a 4-2-3-1 as has been played all year, particularly as a 4-4-2 wasn’t very successful last season. So what does Clarke do? He plays a 4-4-2 and walks away from the DW Stadium with a 1-2 win and leaves me very happy on the coach journey home.

Clarke is clearly not afraid to make the big decisions, as evidenced by Saturday's contest. Peter Odemwingie dropped to the bench, despite scoring both goals in the win against Southampton, as did Zoltan Gera, who also had a good game this past Monday night. Graham Dorrans was also relegated to the bench as James Morrison, Chris Brunt and Romelu Lukaku came into the side. And Clarke's changes were certainly vindicated as all three men had key parts in the two goals.

The first goal was seemingly a hallmark of Clarke’s time as head coach thus far. The ball being played out wide to Brunt, who whipped in a delightful ball, slightly aided by a deflection, with James Morrison arriving from the right to power a header in with the 4-4-2 working out perfectly in this case. The second goal was created by Lukaku, who, apart from his goal, played a poor game.

Lukaku played the ball in behind for Billy Jones to race onto, only to see this time a far bigger deflection from Wigan’s Gary Caldwell put Albion two goals to the good. Jones was fantastic for The Baggies on Saturday. It was by a distance his best game for West Brom and almost the complete opposite of his performance last year where he was torn apart down the right wing by the Latics. Despite Wigan grabbing a goal late in the first half, Albion remained solid in the second half with Gareth McAuley and Jonas Olsson heading everything away in the latter stages of the game.

Another area that must be highlighted is the deep strength the Albion squad has which is what gives Clarke the possibility to use different formations. Jones was my man of the match Saturday, even though he isn’t usually the first choice at right back, while Boaz Myhill stepped in and put in a solid, reliable display in the absence of Ben Foster.

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