After a scintillating, if somewhat unexpected, start to the season, West Bromwich Albion find themselves in 6th place after 10 games, and had things have gone a little differently at Bloomfield Road on Monday night, the Baggies could have found themselves occupying a Champions League position. Having already played Manchester United, Tottenham, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea in their opening fixtures, with notable results at The Emirates and Old Trafford, this is not a case of an easy run of fixtures translating into an artificially high league position. But having seen the likes of Hull City and Burnley go into freefall after good starts, are West Brom about to make a rapid descent towards the relegation zone?
In the 2009-10 season Burnley occupied 11th spot after 10 games and surprised everyone by overcoming Manchester United at Turf Moor with a solitary Robbie Blake goal, before struggling to make an impression later in the season, culminating in the Clarets’ relegation back to the Championship. Having accumulated 12 points in the opening 10 games, Burnley then collected just 18 points from their remaining 28 fixtures, contrasting starkly with their early season form.
Another comparison comes in the shape of Hull City. In the 2008-09, Hull were in 5th place after 10 games, and, like West Brom, produced a remarkable result at The Emirates, with a Daniel Cousin goal proving to be the winner. Subsequent to this though, Hull went the rest of the season only winning two more games and finished only one point off relegation. But is this going to be the case for the Baggies?
Hull City player during the 2008-09 season and West Brom goalkeeper Boaz Myhill certainly doesn’t think so, with comparisons inevitable, but misguided. Speaking to the Sunday Mercury Myhill stated;
‘I don’t see any similarities… It’s a different club, different manager, different styles – the only thing we have in common was winning at Arsenal’
Myhill certainly has a point. On the pitch Hull and West Brom lack similarities, with the Baggies far more organised and relying far less on the set-pieces that proliferated the East Yorkshire side’s rise up the Premier League table. Off the pitch things are certainly different too. West Brom are no strangers to the Premier League, and know what it takes to survive having been the only side bottom at Christmas to have eventually lived to tell the tale in the Premier League the next season. Compare that with Hull, who had never previously been in the top division of the English league.
West Brom also seem to have found a nice balance in their squad, with new striker Peter Odemwingie, settling in very nicely after his move from Lokomotiv Moscow, scoring 3 goals in 6 games for the Baggies. What is also nice to see is a side all moving together in the same direction, with players, fans and board supporting Roberto Di Matteo and his footballing ideals. But as Phil Brown will tell you, that can all change very quickly.
The comparisons with Hull are, as Boaz Myhill correctly asserted, incidental, and the differences between the two clubs far outweigh the similarities. So although I highly doubt West Brom will finish in their current elevated position, there is no cause for concern that Championship football could be on offer at The Hawthorns during the 2011-12 season.