West Bromwich Albion will try their hardest to move attention away from the Peter Odemwingie saga and come away with a much needed win against Tottenham Hotspur.
The league table never lies, apparently, but if you look at recent form you could be forgiven for doubting that. In their last ten games, Albion have only managed to pick up eight points. Two wins, two draws, six losses. Only a free-falling Aston Villa and Wigan have done worse. Compared to Tottenham, who have 19 points from the last 30 available, the game could prove to be extremely difficult for the Albion.
The fact that Albion sit comfortably mid-table shows just how good the start of the season was. At the start of November, talk of European football at the Hawthorns next season was being talked about, albeit a bit quietly. Now, fans have started to look over their shoulders more than they are looking forward.
A transfer window that saw West Brom come out as the only Premier League team to not sign any players shows that Clarke is happy with what is at his disposal. A failed attempt to sign Chris Baird won’t disappoint Clarke too much, though the cover Baird would have provided would have been appreciated. However, the failure to sign Chris Baird is not what people will be talking about this Sunday.
Peter Odemwingie will not be taking part in the game on Sunday; the club perhaps being a bit kind in giving the player time away. In my years supporting West Brom I have never seen a player go from hero to villain so quick. Unfortunately for Odemwingie he has nobody but himself to blame. I do not doubt that he will play for the team again, but the impact such a debacle can have should not be underestimated.
Steve Clarke faces a challenge in using the anger that the fans, and I dare say players, will be feeling towards Odemwingie to somehow produce a performance. His gap in the team will be felt, and it will be interesting to see who Clarke chooses to play in his position. Against Everton, Clarke chose to play Jerome Thomas, but with Thomas looking to be on his way out I wouldn’t be surprised to see Markus Rosenberg picked instead.
Rosenberg, a summer signing after he left Werder Bremen, has so far failed to make an impact at the Albion, however, he is the player that stands to gain the most from the Peter Odemwingie fallout. If Rosenberg finds form, and finds the net, it would be no surprise to find that Rosenberg plays the inside forward role from now on. As for where that would leave Odemwingie, only time will tell.
A potential bonus for Steve Clarke and the Albion is the return of Youssouf Mulumbu from the African Nations. The injury to George Thorne would suggest that, if both fit, the Albion will start with Mulumbu and Yacob together for the first time in two months. The importance of this pairing can be seen in the change of form. The ten games before the Stoke game where they played together last time, Albion picked up nineteen points.
Mulumbu and Yacob make West Brom much harder to play against and much harder to break down. Yacob’s sensibility on the ball has been somewhat of a revelation, and when combined with Mulumbu it creates a central midfield partnership that may rank with the best in the league. Albion will be counting on this partnership to thwart Tottenham’s central creativity and cut Dempsey, Parker or Holtby out of the game. If they are successful, Albion may stand a chance of getting something.
Tottenham’s biggest asset and player is Gareth Bale, and he will be looking forward to Sunday. The failure to sign Chris Baird shows West Brom are aware their weakest position is right back. Bale will most likely come up against Billy Jones who, despite providing decent performances, is found out when up against players of a higher calibre. Albion lack pace, and what Bale has is exactly that. He will try to exploit the wing as much as he can, and unless Jones puts in a man of the match performance it’s hard to bet against Bale on Sunday.
André Villas-Boas will fancy Spurs’ chances against Albion and a quick goal may go some way in turning the atmosphere at the Hawthorns completely against the Albion. Steve Clarke, on the other hand, knows that a win is needed. The slump needs to stop. Most importantly, he knows he will need to show that this team is united and make people forget about Odemwingie, even if it is only for ninety minutes.
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