Quality the difference in West Brom defeat

Posted by Matthew Evans

West Brom can come away from their 1-0 loss at the Etihad Stadium with a great deal of pride after a promising performance against Manchester City. In the end, it was only that final bit of quality that was the difference between the two sides.

Of course that should be of little surprise considering the talent in the Manchester City side. While West Brom retained the ball well, particularly in the second half, they couldn't quite work that final pass or shot unlike Man City whose one moment of magic was the difference. Carlos Tevez showed composure on the ball that some Albion players lacked in the final third, as he dinked a perfect cross into the path of Edin Dzeko who finished well on the volley.

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But even that goal was preventable; Youssuff Mulumbu was played a pass while being marked by Samir Nasri but still should have done better than to be tackled, particularly as he had a simple pass available to him. It is that sort of decision-making that can make all of the difference against a top side when it could perhaps go unpunished against sides on a similar level to The Baggies.

The lack of quality from Albion was prevalent in all areas of their attacking play. From open play, Liam Ridgewell was particularly guilty; he got forward very well and into some great positions only for his final ball to let him down terribly. There were also issues with the final pass from a more central position, Romelu Lukaku's pace allowed him to nearly round Joe Hart but the actual pass from James Morrison just had a bit too much on it.

Lukaku himself could be said to have lacked his usual quality in front of goal against last season's champions. The free header that fell to him in the first half was a great opportunity to give Albion the lead, and Albion fans wouldn’t have wanted that header to fall anyone else.

However, the area where The Baggies were let down the most for the majority of the game was their set pieces. West Brom were very wasteful in terms of their delivery, particularly when you consider that Steve Clarke picked a side that contained three centre backs plus Ridgewell and Lukaku who are also very useful in the air. In that respect, it is where West Brom miss skipper Chris Brunt the most.

Brunt has struggled for consistency this term, but one thing that can always be relied upon is the quality that he delivers, particularly from corners. With his deputy Graham Dorrans also missing, James Morrison was unable to provide the quality of ball that West Brom's attacking forces desired.

Despite this, Clarke will be very happy with the performance of his charges particularly as he decided to experiment with players included in the line-up and the formation. Clarke went with a 3-5-2/5-3-2 which worked very well and with the right personnel, it could work even better.

Billy Jones was one player who particularly benefitted from the formation change as he moved into a slightly more advanced right-wing back role. It has been suggested that he has fantastic ability going forward but his defending isn't quite on that level. The wing back role allowed Jones to focus far more on going forward which suits his game better and also gives Albion a width that they tend to lack.

As mentioned, Ridgewell struggled with his final ball on the other side so the left wing back role may be more suited to Goran Popov who has struggled with injury lately but did make the bench for tonight's match. Like Jones, Popov's strength lies more with his ability in the other half of the pitch.

The central defensive trio of Gabriel Tamas, Craig Dawson and Jonas Olsson dealt fairly well with the threat of City's multi-million pound attacking talent barring some poor defending for the goal from all three. It was good to see Craig Dawson given a chance back in the side and he looked to be a much improved player from the one who played in a 4-0 loss in the same fixture last season. Olsson was also far improved on his displays in recent weeks, with his distribution back to a decent level.

A final mention has to go to Markus Rosenberg. The Swedish international was somewhat of a maligned figure among Albion fans. He came with quite a reputation but has failed to break into the team with the impressive displays of Long in the first half of the season and Lukaku in the second half of the season. Rosenberg impressed against Wigan and although he wasn't as good today, he was still impressive. He will be dying to score and came even closer today, thumping a superb free kick against the bar.

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