Defeat shows where West Brom need to strengthen

Posted by Matthew Evans

Paul Gilham/Getty ImagesSaturday's loss to Wigan showed where West Brom manager Steve Clarke needs to firm things up over the summer.

West Brom's 3-2 loss to Wigan at the Hawthorns will have served as a stark reminder to Steve Clarke of the areas where the club will need to strengthen in the summer transfer window.

The three goals Albion conceded against Wigan were all poorly defended, which goes against the standard of defending that was first seen under Roy Hodgson and has continued under Clarke. Since the turn of the year, Jonas Olsson has failed to hit the same level of form that he displayed in the first half of the season, much like other key players in the side. He was at least partly at fault for the first goal; Arouna Kone was the only Wigan player in the box but was somehow allowed the room to head past Ben Foster, Olsson seemingly misjudging the flight of the ball.

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Considering the high standards he has set during his time at the club, Olsson has been poor this season comparatively, discounting his early season form where he was outstanding. What is perhaps significant is that in those previous seasons, Olsson has picked up injuries that have meant him having a couple of months out and then coming back re-invigorated for the final part of the season. Olsson hasn't had such a break this season, so he may be suffering from tiredness, or the lack of competition for places may be having an effect on his performances.

With very little to play for in the rest of the season, it may be time to give Craig Dawson an opportunity to showcase his abilities in the Premier League after an impressive loan spell with Bolton in the Championship. There is no better time to really give Dawson some exposure at Premier League level. It is not make or break time but If Dawson steps in and performs to the levels he has at Bolton, Albion will know they have someone capable of stepping in or even replacing either Gareth McAuley or Olsson next season.

If not, then the hierarchy at West Brom will have to consider bringing in a centre half who they believe will be able to challenge the partnership of McAuley and Olsson. Another area where The Baggies really struggled today was in retaining possession of the ball; even the usually reliable Claudio Yacob was guilty of playing some poor passes today. This is a facet of Albion's game that is often shown up against sides like Wigan or Swansea who keep the ball so well.

Youssuff Mulumbu returned to the side alongside Yacob and Graham Dorrans but the Scot was really the only one to impose himself on the game and help retain possession for his side. In contrast to Olsson, Yacob appears to be struggling because of an injury he picked up. The Argentine international barely missed a match prior to Christmas, but after picking up an injury that give him a month on the sidelines, it seems Yacob has struggled to re-adapt to the pace of the Premier League particularly as he didn't appear to be fully fit when he did return.

When both Mulumbu and Yacob were missing through injury, Albion's lack of cover in the centre of midfield was there for all to see. Chris Brunt and James Morrison were played deeper in the midfield but struggled to have the same impact on the game that they have from their usual positions, while youngster George Thorne performed. However, it is perhaps too soon to expect Thorne to be a regular back-up, especially considering the major injury he is currently recovering form. Therefore, it is imperative that The Baggies bring in one player capable of playing the deeper midfield role to provide cover and competition for Yacob and Mulumbu.

One area which Clarke would have been pleased with is up front where The Baggies three-pronged attack once again gave them a renewed vigour and movement in their attack despite the lack of ball retention. One player who particularly impressed was Swedish forward Markus Rosenberg, making his first Premier League start since the turn of the year. Due to the form of Lukaku and Long, Rosenberg has struggled to get a game in his preferred central striker role but was given his shot today and took advantage. He set up the first goal for Shane Long and also laid one on a plate for Romelu Lukaku who uncharacteristically lost his composure in front of goal.

What was most impressive about Rosenberg's performance was his hold-up play, which was surprisingly strong for a player of his size. His link-up play with Long and Lukaku was also impressive, particularly when you consider how little time they would have had together playing as an attacking trio. It was very surprising to see Clarke take Rosenberg and Lukaku off, as while The Baggies were struggling at the back, they remained a threat going forward.

With Peter Odemwingie certain to leave and doubts over the futures of Lukaku and Marc Antoine Fortune, Clarke will be hoping that over the next three games Rosenberg shows he is worthy of being kept on next season. That is a good performance to start, but Rosenberg needs to carry that on if Clarke gives him those chances in the final matches of the season and of course as a striker he could do with finding the net soon.

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