SussexBaggie speaks...Liverpool and a selection headache
Tom Harper focuses on Albion's defeat and reminisces about happier times
We were brought back down to earth with a bump on Saturday, as we suffered a disappointing 2-0 defeat at home to Liverpool.
There is no shame in losing to a side who have invested so much money in their squad in recent months, but the manner of our performance frustrated a number of supporters, especially after the reasonably impressive way we played in each of the derby matches in the two weeks previously.
Whilst I agree with this view to a certain extent, I think it is important that we are realistic about our expectations this season. We finished last season in superb form and appear to have made some very astute signings over the summer. Both of these factors have perhaps lead some supporters expecting a bit too much.
As much as I would like to see us push on and finish around 11th place again, avoiding relegation would still constitute a very impressive achievement. We have never stayed in the Premier League for longer than a second season, so we would be achieving something unprecedented just by finishing outside of the bottom three.
As it is, I think we have a strong enough squad to be looking at the lower mid-table area. This is obviously dependant on our key players avoiding injuries and on us winning the games which we should on paper. But I don’t think there is any reason why we cannot be ambitious this season, whilst retaining a sense of realism about what our squad is capable of achieving.
This weekend, we face another incredibly tough game with a trip to the Emirates Stadium to face Arsenal.
This was one of the highlights of last season, as a sensational attacking display saw us go 3-0 up and eventually win 3-2. The celebrations at the end of the game were outstanding, with the 1400 travelling Albion fans remaining in the ground for a good 15 minutes after the final whistle.
Being realistic, it is obvious that a repeat result and performance on Saturday is fairly unlikely. However, this is the kind of game where there is absolutely no pressure on us to get a result, so the players can hopefully play with a bit of freedom and try and cause them a few problems.
Whether there will be a change of formation remains to be seen, although I think that a 4-5-1 would prove very beneficial against a side with as much attacking intent as Arsenal.
The absence of Paul Scharner due to injury could be a big miss, but the performances of James Morrison and Graham Dorrans, after coming off the bench on Saturday, show that we do have players capable of filling in for Scharner in central midfield. If anything, players like Morrison and Dorrans may suit a game where the ball is going to spend a lot of time on the ground more than someone like Scharner, whose main strength is his physical presence and aerial ability against sides who play a more direct style of football.
One player who I believe will be very lucky to retain his place in the side after the Liverpool game is Peter Odemwingie. Our top scorer from last season has been poor so far this campaign, and seemed to lack interest in the game on Saturday. His best performance so far this season came during the 20 minutes he was on the pitch against Wolves after being dropped to the bench, something which I believe we should do against Arsenal, with the hard-working Simon Cox replacing him in the starting line-up.
Games like the Liverpool match and the trip to Arsenal on Saturday will not decide where we finish this season, although I’m sure I’m not the only fan who really wants to see us pick up a result on Saturday.
As with any game against the top sides, we will have to play well and hope that they put in a below-par performance. However, if this is the case, we might just be able to achieve another positive result!
Can Albion get a result on Saturday? Have your say at Baggies Banter.
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