This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
West Brom moved to within four points off the top of the table as their unbeaten run to this Championship campaign extended to a sixth straight game.
Though, their bottle was tested as Blackburn Rovers opened the scoring in the very first minute on Saturday, before four other goals flew in before half-time.
An 18-minute spell before the break saw the Baggies hit back three times through Matt Phillips, Jake Livermore, and Grady Diangana.
Then Rovers captured one back right on the stroke of half-time to make it 3-2.
Slaven Bilic elected to go with Charlie Austin in attack again after Kenneth Zohore had netted his first two goals for the club last week, albeit both late penalties, which required some nerve in itself.
The former Southampton man lasted 68 minutes in his first start for ten days, but his performance felt very much like it was a match fitness outing in a friendly rather than a proper game with three points on the line.
That’s because he’s still not fit enough – which is understandable when you didn’t have much, if any, of a pre-season after he was frozen out by his former Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl.
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Playing in the striker’s role on your own is also a very intensive task as you often have to create chances for yourself and bring others into play. It is one that currently seems to be an issue for the 30-year-old – not through a lack of effort, but because a lack of game time is affecting his performances.
The WhoScored figure above shows Austin’s average position (#15) during the Blackburn victory. He’s actually deeper than three other players despite supposedly leading the Baggies attack.
Austin will not score many goals if he’s being asked to come deep, that’s for sure.
The majority of his goals have come from inside the penalty box, as shown by the Understat xG model above – just two of his 34 strikes have come from outside the area, with a significant concentration of those goals being in or around the six-yard box.
Bilic needs to play to Austin’s strengths, even more so while he tries to combat being a yard or two off the pace. He’s a predator that will get you goals inside the penalty box – forcing him deep practically renders him ineffective.
Thus, Bilic needs to bring him further forward.