West Bromwich Albion were comfortable winners against bitter rivals Aston Villa on Saturday. First half goals from Hal Robson-Kanu and Jay Rodriguez secured a 2-0 victory for the Baggies at Villa Park.
Without joint-top goalscorer Dwight Gayle – who was unavailable due to a suspension – Darren Moore’s side had to change their approach somewhat, but they were still the superior side.
Without Gayle, the visitors’ front line lacked pace. Rodriguez and Robson-Kanu – brought into the starting XI in place of Gayle – lack the speed and mobility to offer the same threat to the opposition defence usually provided by the 28-year-old suspended striker.
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Without this weapon in their attacking arsenal, the Baggies had to adapt their approach play. Rodriguez and Robson-Kanu both offer plenty of physicality and aerial threat. West Brom therefore made sure that they played to their strengths.
It was unsurprising then that the opening goal of the game came from a Robson-Kanu header, as the Villa defenders failed to deal with the Welshman’s presence in the box and West Brom worked to forge exactly the kind of opportunity he is capable of capitalising on.
Moore deserves plenty of credit for successfully restructuring his team and remoulding his tactics so as to get the best out of his forwards.
With a tough trip to Loftus Road to face QPR next on the agenda for West Brom, Moore will be preparing his side to once again win without the help of Gayle. But Saturday’s game provided the blueprint: if the Rs fail to deal with the more robust, direct approach of Rodriguez and Robson-Kanu as much as Villa did, then the Baggies will stand a great chance.