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Team Focus: Are West Brom Any Better Under Steve Clarke?

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Team Focus: Are West Brom Any Better Under Steve Clarke?

 

Many people hold the belief that West Brom are much improved under new manger Steve Clarke this season. Many have said they have outplayed opponents on countless occasions with the better football, and that their position - fifth in the Premier League - is a good representation of their performances so far. The stats, however, simply do not agree.

 

Of course, statistics are not the be all and end all in football, but in general, teams towards the top of the leagues tend to dominate in some department, giving some indication of why they hold the position they do. West Brom's vital statistics, though, seem to have fallen under the guidance of their new boss, and yet they are only outside the Champions League places on goal difference.

 

The powers that be were not unhappy with the previous regime; Roy Hodgson chose to leave of his own accord at the end of last season to go on to manage the national team. They were a tactically astute team and had a very successful campaign last season, finishing 10th in the league. Steve Clarke, though, has been praised for improving the Midlands club, when there are reasons to believe he has not done so.

 

Surprisingly, given their results, only Stoke and Reading, often maligned for playing poor football, have had less possession than West Brom in the Premier League this season, who average a distinctly unimpressive 43.1% of the ball. It could have been that the 11 games they have played have been against the teams that keep the ball best. Not so. They are yet to face four of the top seven teams when it comes to possession this season (Arsenal, Man Utd, Swansea and Chelsea) and clearly do not keep the ball effectively, even against sides that are not used to dominating possession. Last season, however, Roy Hodgson's West Brom side averaged 45.8% possession over the whole Premier League season. 

 

The cause of that may be that this season's Baggies have played a greater percentage of their passes long (14%) than they did last (12%); only five teams have played a greater proportion of long balls this term than WBA. Their 317 short passes per game this season is way down on the 345 they averaged last campaign, while the number of aerial duels they have won has risen dramatically, from 10.8 per game to 15.6. West Brom have undoubtedly played some good football this season, and scored some very good goals as a result, but it is not as if Steve Clarke has implemented a more possession based, short passing game at his new club.

 

Team Focus: Are West Brom Any Better Under Steve Clarke?

 

Of course, possession and goals are not causally linked; Albion are scoring more goals this term than last, averaging 1.54 per game compared to 1.18. Effective counter-attacking means little possession but plenty of chances and goals nonetheless. Napoli have become masters of this art in recent years with their smash-and-grab football over in Italy, and West Brom have used this technique to good effect this term. While they have averaged the eleventh most shots per game this season, with 13.3 (notably down on their tally of 14.3 last term), only Spurs and Manchester City have had more attempts from quick breaks this season than the Baggies (9). Under Steve Clarke, though, they have only scored a solitary goal via counter-attacks, making up 5.9% of their league goals this term, while last season counter-attacks made up 6.7% of their strikes. While they seem to be favouring counter-attacking football more so than many other clubs, it is clearly not a direct reason for their new found success.

 

So, West Brom are scoring more goals this time around, and yet they are having fewer attempts on goal. Of course this points to improved finishing since Steve Clarke's arrival, with Shane Long and Romelu Lukaku impressing as they vouch for the lone front spot, as well as Peter Odemwingie excelling in a position out wide. Indeed, they have hit the target with 34% of their goalscoring attempts - up from 31% last term - leading to a conversion rate of 11% this term, compared to 8% when Hodgson was in charge last season.

 

With four different players sharing the top-scorer badge for Clarke's men, goals are coming from many different sources with some degree of consistency, and it is arguable that their success is down to the clinical nature of their attack this season compared to last.

 

What is more for Clarke's West Brom, they also concede more shots per game (16.3) than they did last term (15.6). The difference is minimal, but does make sense with the team leaving themselves vulnerable to opposition attacks when breaking with pace, as already mentioned. Ben Foster, between the posts for the Baggies both this season and last, has also had an impact on their success.

 

The former England goalkeeper saved just under 69% of the shots on target he faced last season, and it plain to see why he is so highly regarded amongst managers, players and supporters alike. Yet more impressively, Foster has improved on that rate this term, upping his rate to a formidable 75%. Thus, Steve Clarke's West Brom leave themselves open to more shots from their opponents, but his arrival has also coincided with a fortunate upturn in form in the man between the sticks.

 

While Steve Clarke enjoys the praise that comes with riding high in the European places, it should be considered that there is a valid argument that says yes, he has improved results at the Hawthorns, but he has not overshadowed his predecessor in terms of performance and style. Of course, fifth in the league after 11 games for West Brom is an achievement in itself, but West Brom have not improved as markedly as their league position suggests.

Comments (14)

 
  • @Baggie123 The whole site is full of stats from opta. The writer probably got them from there...

  • This site is powered by Opta (sourced in the footer) so all stats are from there. In terms of possession against bottom half sides you had 45% vs QPR, 43% vs Southampton and 43% vs Villa...

  • Didn't fancy quoting any sources with these statistics pal? Surely this is a BASIC requirement of an article like this?

  • I didnt realise we were in the US? Stats stats and more stats. As a season ticket holder who attends most away games I can firmly say the football on offer this seaosn has been much improved over the football under Hodgson last season. We play quicker, more counter attacking football now but have still kept the solidity that Roy instilled in us. Its also worth bearing in mind that we have played 6 of the current top 10 so i'm not surprised at these stats. It would be worth seeing what our possesion was in the games we played against QPR, Southampton, Reading and Villa, I'm guessing we may well have edged those games.

  • The writer just uses stats that trust to back up his weak assessment of us. Where are the points about Albions quality of crossing. Has their been a better pass and move goal scored than our 3rd against Qpr. The reason our possession is not so high is because we let the opposition have it when were in front. It is fascinating watching teams try and break us down knowing if they lose it it will end up with lightning speed by passing at another great chance to score. Poor statistic journalism.

  • @TheJackal Very well put, mate

  • Quoting statistics rips the heart and soul out of football for me. I know what I see. We are where we are because we deserve to be. So the reason for writing the article is.......?

  • Nevertheless, Hodgson's 4-4-2 it has to be said was less pleasing. Long and Odemwingie together just never worked and it was only when he rang that totally unexpected change of playing Fortuné up front against Stoke away did we start to fulfil our potential. Nevertheless, it was football in a straitjacket. Everyone assigned a strict role. "Difficult to beat" clichés all of the shop. Better passing maybe but like under Clarke, only very occasionally at speed, with all players more mindful of having to track back than taking risks getting forward. Clarke allows more leeway to the players but the "keep it tight for 60 minutes" is becoming a bit pedantic. He may well urge players to play with more pace after that period but the emphasis is still Hodgson-esque. Yes, we're winning and no I wouldn't change that for all the Hodgsons, Mowbrays and Megsons of the World but overall, we finally have a squad of which we can proud and lucky for Clarke, that is allowing him the time to learn.

  • I have to say, as an Albion Season Ticket holder that whilst I believe that statistics usually prove very little, there is something to be said for this article. "Yes, he has improved results at the Hawthorns, but he has not overshadowed his predecessor in terms of performance and style." sums up my position very nicely. How I would arrive at this conclusion is different, however. Yacob's partnership with Mulumbu covering the defence makes us hard to beat. And yet there seems to be little fluidity to our play going forward. Yes, we have a better strike rate but that's about it. Smash and grab football, indeed. The 4-2-3-1 that we've been playing breaks well but Hodgson's 4-5-1 with Fortuné linking play up and bringing midfielders into the attack was much more pleasing. Far too often we lack movement up front and the defence are forced to lump the ball forward. The 4-4-1-1 that we played against Wigan bodes well however. Watch this space!

  • I liked WBA this season. With low possession/game, they kinda remind me of Hannover a couple of seasons ago that finished 5th/6th. The jurnalist even as far he goes to stated that 'Hannover don't want the ball', & gets it upfront quickly to Didier Ya Konan. WBA's second goal against Soton was like that. Maybe my critic is the forward rotation between Long & Lukaku. I prefer Long, but after Lukaku scored against Newcastle, he was dropped. Maybe WBA fans can share about this issue, but maybe this rotation make the strikers more clinical. Another thing I like about them this term is that the board specifically were looking for a head coach, not a manager. They have already Dan Ashworth doing the transfers, & Clarke would only handle on field matters.

  • I thought this was a statistics website? For a start Reading aren't criticised for playing poor football. You're also mixing up 'quality of football' with possession stats. This is pretty basic stuff especially in the modern era of letting teams have possession where it's not hurting you. See how most teams play against Swansea. What would have been interesting was to see how a team with low possession can sit so highly in the table. West Brom haven't been outplayed often, yet have a decent points haul. To just equate it to being more dangerous in front of goal is sloppy. What are the chances like compared to last year? How many players do we average in the box during attacks? What's the average position for attacking players? That would have required an analysis rather than listing a few stats and whether they're higher or lower than the previous season. This kind of article is what I'd expect from my 10 year old son. 3/10 Must Try Harder.

  • Hi, zagato. Don't know why we respond to such muppets 'cos we won't see a response and the jester will just move on. One day someone in the media will take the trouble to find out about West Bromwich Albion FC and hold us up as the beacon to professional football clubs that we are.

  • So, Mr. Tweedale, would you care to tell us what all your statistics demonstrate? I would suggest the square root of nothing. You just do not like West Brom's success. You cannot accept that an unfashionable team can be so well run, spend so little money and enjoy some success. This cannot possibly be happening to a team outside the media's darling, big spending London/Manchester/Liverpool axis teams, can it? Rationalise it with some stats, will you?

  • Someday, somewhere, somebody will say something positive about the Baggies. It's plainly obvious it's not you. This media "dislike" baffles me. It's been the same for over fifty years.

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Daniel Avles Patrick Helmes Raobin van Persie Pablo Armero Rondon Fabio Borini Patrick Herrmann Jonathan Scmid Kostantinos Fortounis Vincent Pajot Josua Guilavogui Idrissa Gana Gueye Ezequiel Munoz Nene Oliver Sorg Davide Brivio Sebastian Larsson Franceso Totti Tom Trybull M'Baye Niang Jean Daniel Akpa Akpro Matias Silvestre Euro 2012 Olof Mellberg Crisitano Ronaldo Alvaro Arbeloa Sebastian Boenisch Alan Dzagoev Andrey Arshavin Michael Krohn-Dehli Vaclav Pilar Theodor Gebre Selassie Gordon Schildenfeld Greece Miguel Veloso Mark Davies David Hoilett Santiago Garcia Marco Rignoni Vicente Guaita Michael Rensing Paul Robinson Fabien Audard Thomas Vermaelen Younes Belhanda Aurelien Chedjou Antonio Valencia Genoa Nancy St. Etienne Lukas Piszczek Dante Robert Huth Gijon Claudio Pizzaro Racing Santander Jonas Hannover Santander Werder Bremen Claudio Pizarro Papiss Demba Cissé Wolves Cesena David Jarolim Joe Cole Moussa Dembele Yakubu Javier Hernandez Leon Best Benat Kaiserslautern Christian Tiffert Paolo De Ceglie Federico Balzaretti Jeremey Menez Juan MGladbach Andreas Ivanschitz Jires Kembo-Ekoko Guillaume Hoarau Florent Malouda Steve Gohouri Kenwyne Jones Dirk Kuyt Lecce Stephen Ireland Michael Carrick Jakub Blaszcykowski Christian Fuchs Chievo Sloan Privat Abraham Guie Guie Bastian Schweinsteiger Louis Saha Martin Harnik Stuttgart German Bundesliga Grant Holt Ali Al-Habsi Ludovic Sane Aldo Angoula Younes Kaboul Brest Marcelo Stiliyan Petrov mathieu Valbuena Tono Ramirez Gianluca Buffon Emile Heskey John Utaka Markus Rosenborg Marko Arnautovic Jonathan Biabiany Andrea Caracciolo Evian Thonon Gaillard Mohammed Abdellaoue Dijon Anton Ferdinand Fabricio Coloccini Betting Eric Mouloungui Cedric Bakambu Gregory Pujol Eduardo Ribeiro Sebastien Larsson Nolan Roux Moussa Sow Bradley Johnson Jamie O'Hara Wes Brown Jason Lowe Jose Enrique Anders Lindegaard Mark Schwarzer Cheik Tiote Alberto Aquilani Danny Murphy Martin O'Neill Modibo Maiga OGC Nice Perparim Hetemaj Alejandro Faurlin Leon Britton Nicolas N'Koulou Antonio Nocerino Maximiliano Moralez Claudio Marchisio Marco Rigoni Simone Pepe Heidar Helguson Mark Gower Blackburn Emanuele Calaiò Zlatan Ibrahimović Germán Denis Jose Jurado Nicolas Anelka Edgar Barreto Alexandre Song Shaun Wright-Phillips Nicolas Maurice-Belay Jhon Jairo Culma Kevin Anin Sebastien Corchia Kevin Theophile-Catherine FC Cologne Julien Feret Jaroslav Plasil Yann Jouffre Tomas Rincon Kevin Davies Giampiero Pinzi Tamas Hajnal Camel Meriem Frederic Bulot Caen Gokhan Tore AS Nancy Gabriel Torje Lynel Kitambala Florent Sinama-Pongolle Idriss Saadi Oscar Trejo Botelho Juanlu Axel Bellinghausen Gonzalo Castro Andrea Cossu Marcel Schafer Marco Hoger Timothy Chandler Bolton Wanderers Ivan Klasnic Paris St Germain Wolverhampton Wanderers Wigan Athletic Micah Richards Javi Varas Blackburn Rovers Stephan Lichtsteiner Anotnio Cassano Scott Sinclair Nenad Milijas Anatoliy Tymoshchuk Luis Gustavo Ruud van Nistelrooy Benoit Cheyrou Lucho Gonzalez League Analysis Queens Park Rangers Walter Samuel Christian Chivu AS Roma Stephen Warnock Martin Kelly Gary Caldwell Karl Henry Kevin Doyle England National Football Team Charlie Adam Javi Venta Vicente Iborra Sergio Ballesteros Bobby Zamora Jonas Gutierrez Dariusz Dudka Youssouf Hadji Christian Abbiati Alvaro Dominguez Phil Neville Senad Lulic Gabriel Obertan Filip Daems Ezequiel Schelotto Victor Ruiz Jonathan Pereira Anthony Reveillere Santiago Gentiletti Cheikh Diabate Nicolas Spolli Luciano Fabian Monzon Mauricio Isla Ignazio Abate Titus Bramble Ritchie De Laet Leroy Lita Christian Lell Philipp Wollscheid Milivoje Novakovic Tottenhman Hotspur Johan Cavalli Eliseu Serdar Tasci Ryan Babel Aleksandar Ignjovski Chechu Dorado Djamel Mesbah Arsenal Swansea Ashely Williams Piscu Eden Dzeko Emmerson Boyce Auxerre Phil Bardsley Jose Bosingwa Gretar Steinsson Mattia Cassani Jonathan Woodgate Germany National Football Team Gasperini Mauro Zarate Diego Forlan Estaban Cambiasso Juraj Kucka Marco Faraoni Joel Obi Benedikt Howedes Clemens Fritz Chris Lowe Daniel van Buyten Albania Yann M’Vila Baptiste Reynet Raul Meireles Angelo Palombo Eric Tie Bi Faouzi Ghoulam Chris Mavinga Anderson Aaron Hughes Chris Baird Raul Aly Cissokho Alessandro Del Piero Samir Handanovic France National Football Team Marc Tierney Bundelsiga Raul Bobadilla Michael Dawson Loric Remy Jean Pascal Mignot Mainz 05 Schalke 04 Marcel Risse Steven Reid Danny Gabbidon Michal Kadlec Paulo Machado Ben Watson Spain National Football Team German National Football Team Bundeslgia Ricardo Carvalho Ivan Ramis Diego Colotto Sergio Fernandez Sere A Cesare Bovo Miguel Britos Bostjan Cesar Jose Angel Gabriel Heinze Chris Samba Charles N'Zogbia Yohan Demont Rod Fanni Rudy Mater Georgios Tzavellas Javier Pinola Dennis Aogo Daniel Schwaab Attacking Full-Backs Defensive Wingers 2010/11 Attacking Wingers Nicolas Douchez Jeremy Menez Under-21 Team of Season 2010-11 Maxi Rodriguez Scott Dann Crossing Wingers Under-21 Team of Season All-Round Midfielders Benoit Pedretti Rising Stars Kyle Walker Gaetano D'Agostino Centre Backs Paulo Da Silva Ivan Hernandez Eric Abidal Weligton Borja Ekiza Alassane Toure Stephane Grichting Jordan Loties Kader Mangane Adama Coulibaly Martin Stranzl Pedro Geromel Neven Subotic Christian Zapata James Tomkins Roger Johnson Stephan Lichsteiner Reto Ziegler David Vaughan Seb Larsson Asamoah Gyan Benoit Pedretti Anthony Mounier Mehmet Ekici Simao Duda Alvaro Cejudo Xabi Prieto Alexsandar Kolarov Guiseppe Mascara Simone Bentivoglio Fernando Marques Gian Piero Gasperin Thomas Hitzlsperger Rafael Van der Vaart Theofanis Gekas Gerard Asamoah Youssef Al Arabi Lisandro Loric Remy Victor Hugo Montano Edison Cavani Sergio Pellissier David Di Michele Steward Downing Spain Under 21 Felipe Caicedo Pierre Webo Youssef El-Arabi Brown Ideye Mobido Maiga Chu-Young Robin Van Persie Kevin Gamerio England U21 Udinese. Alexis Sanchez Pedro Sami Allagui Frédéric Kanouté Renato Augusto Jonathan Pitropia Eljero Elia Ivo Llicevic Fernando Muslera Diego Perez Alvaro González Abel Hernandez David VIlla Marcel Schmelzer Danijel Pranjic Holger Badstuber Sven Bender Johan Djourou Darren Fletcher Carlos Kameni Thiago Silve Antonia Di Natale Cristiano Zapata Domenico Criscito Luis Jimenez Josep Ilicic Samuel Eto’o Alexis Thébaux Ludovic Sané Mamouda Sakho Boukary Dramé Daniel Alves Nikolay Mihaylov Charles Puyol Ji-Sung Park Edwin van der Sar Dani Alves John O’Shea Park Ji-Jung Gabi Fernandez Jonathan de Guzman Michael Owen Gary Taylor-Fletcher Ian Evatt DJ Campbell Charles N’Zogbia Wolverhampton Robinho Rudi Garcia Avram Grant Conor Sammon Wayne Bridge Rob Green Victor Obinna Mike Hanke Borussia Munchengladbach VfL Bochum Tomasz Kuszczak Martin Olsson Brett Emerton Steven N’Zonzi Muset Ozil Gianpaolo Pazzini Leonardo Seydou Keita Miguel Pallardo Ibrahim Afellay Valdo Pallardo Damien Perquis Luka Modrid David SIlva Roberto Mancini Benoit Assou-Ekotto Vedran Corluka Carlo Ancelotti Saloman Kalou Clarence Seedorf Matteo Brighi Fabio Simplicio Rodrigo Taddei Mark Van Bommel Gennaro Gattuso Kevin Prince-Boateng Nicolas Burdisso Elkin Soto Pep Gaurdiola Lassana Diarra Lucas Barrios Antonio da Silva Robert Mak Heurelho Gomes Andre Marriner Pinto Alavro Arbeloa Alexander Hleb

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