This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
The Championship is fiercely competitive this season, but West Bromwich Albion have everything in place to succeed, whether it is this season or next.
Failing to win and drawing instead is enough to see you slip several places in the table – currently, Nottingham Forest in fifth and Derby County in 15th are separated by just four points.
It’s screaming out for a team to put a solid enough run together to pull away slightly at the top, which the Baggies very nearly managed, but a couple of weeks ago, they failed to win either of their games against Barnsley and Charlton Athletic.
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Yet they went into that weekend two points clear at the top. Bizarre.
Albion have to be one of the favourites to go up from this point onwards. No team has lost fewer games, but the main reason is that their set up behind the scenes is already that of Premier League standard – not many others can say that.
Firstly, their management team has plenty of experience in the top-flight and on the international stage. Slaven Bilic led West Ham for two years with Julian Dicks also there, as well as the Croatian national team for six years.
During matches, they have an analysis team that sends live data to the bench that could influence tactical changes or even potential substitutions.
But their work doesn’t just stop there as they put in excess of 70 hours of work during the week to prepare for all eventualities, which was put into practice against Derby County.
It could be said that this secret team in the stands practically salvaged the point as they knew which way Martyn Waghorn was going to go for his penalty.
Speaking to the Express & Star, head of analysis Gerard Moore said: “One of the things we noticed when preparing for Waghorn was that when he has two penalties in a game, he tends to go a different way for the second one.”
It’s this sort of preparation and extra groundwork which sets them ahead of the rest of the division, and ultimately, it prepares them for the eventuality of being a Premier League club once again.