The Inside Track: West Bromwich Albion

By SFC Media Thu 29 Dec Saints vs West Brom

Get the lowdown on West Bromwich Albion ahead of Saturday's Premier League clash at St Mary's from Joe Chapman, West Brom content writer for the Birmingham Mail.

How would you assess West Brom's season so far?

Many predicted it’d be an uphill battle by September. Albion were knocked out of the EFL Cup at Northampton, lost late at Bournemouth and enthusiasm among the fans was quite low.

Then the upturn in form came, they lost two of ten matches and are now cemented in the top half - alongside the Saints.

They’ve a terrific record against sides in the bottom half of the table - they blew away the likes of Burnley and Swansea but have struggled against sides in the top half.

Still, 23 points from 18 matches is an impressive return for Albion at this stage.

Which players have stood out this season?

Salomon Rondon has certainly taken it up a notch from his displays of last season - he’s scoring more, and is the focal point to much of what Albion do going forward, so the battle between him and Virgil van Dijk could be an intriguing one.

Elsewhere, Matty Phillips has really come on recent weeks, scoring and assisting freely after a slow start. There have been telling contributions, too, from the likes of James Morrison, Jonny Evans, Allan Nyom and Claudio Yacob.

It's difficult to think of too many players that haven’t chipped in at one point or another.

What has the style of play been like under Tony Pulis?

We’ve certainly seen Albion offer more in the final third this season. They could have been accused of being too conservative at times last year, but they’ve been let off the leash at times this.

The home wins over Swansea, Watford, West Ham and Burnley displayed their qualities - they scored 14 times in those games in total.

Against the better sides on the road, though, I’d expect them to retreat a little more.

What have you made of Southampton’s season?

I was personally interested to see how Claude Puel would do, having had no previous experience of English football.
I’ve been quite impressed at how the intensity doesn’t seem to have dropped, despite the departures of some key men in the summer.

Nathan Redmond was an excellent buy, while I think Albion will be quietly pleased Charlie Austin is missing, as we were beginning to see the best of him.

I’ve watched a lot of them in the Europa League, which I think they were unfortunate not to progress in, but I’ll be extremely surprised if they don’t finish in the top eight again this year.

What sort of game are you expecting?

It was possibly Albion’s worst performance of last season at St Mary’s, with the game pretty much dead at half-time so I’m such they’ll be looking to atone for that.

Albion will do much of what you’d expect from a side whipped into shape by Tony Pulis - they’ll defend deep, and look to attack on the counter and from set-pieces.

Rondon, Gareth McAuley and Craig Dawson are the prime aerial threats, while they now carry a little more pace on the break than they used to in Phillips and Nacer Chadli.

If they can deal with what Southampton have to offer in attacking areas with the likes of Sofiane Boufal, Jay Rodriguez and now most likely Dušan Tadić in the absence of Nathan Redmond, the Baggies may have enough to steal something.

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