After escaping from the City Ground with a scarcely deserved point, but which nonetheless could easily have been three, Darren Moore takes his side to Carrow Road with at least the comfort that they are off the mark.
However, he does not have the comfort of having any more players on board after Transfer Deadline Day passed without incident at the Hawthorns. That did, of course, mean that not only were no players signed, but none left the Hawthorns either which means that Dawson, Rodriguez, Gibbs, Livermore and Chadli are still at the club despite expectations that at least one or two might have returned to the Premier League.
And while none of them can move to England’s top flight until January, Europe’s top leagues are still free to sign players until the end of the month and, of those, Nacer Chadli seems to be the most likely to find a new club on the continent.
The lack of incomings means that the squad is still short of a right back, although Dawson can obviously play there assuming he can be successfully reintegrated into the squad, very light in the middle of the park and in need of another option up front. The loan window remains open for Football League clubs until the end of August, so Moore has the opportunity to exploit that in the next couple of weeks.
Mark Jenkins’ promise of a “strong budget” doesn’t appear to have been met, although he was perhaps expecting a few more to leave. It’s difficult to know exactly what has been going on behind the scenes, but the farce that was the Guiliano Terraneo experiment can hardly have helped. I was always concerned that Big Dave would struggle in the transfer market without someone experienced alongside him, and it’s not evident who has been helping out on that front, so perhaps it is no surprise that the incomings have been underwhelming.
Having said that, Johnstone, Gayle and Bartley are all good signings replacing key outgoing players, Harvey Barnes looks to be an upgrade on James MacClean and the retention of Dawson, Rodriguez and Gibbs is definitely positive. Nonetheless, the squad remains short of attack-minded players, so there’s still some work to do in the loan market.
Back to the reason for it all, though, and Norwich City are the Baggies’ next opponents on Saturday. Daniel Farke took over at Carrow Road just over a year ago after a season in which Alex Neil was sacked with City 8th in the table with his assistant, former Baggies’ boss Alan Irvine, taking over as caretaker until the end of the season.
Farke is the first non-British man to take the reigns at Norwich, and it is his first job outside of Germany. He spent most of his playing and coaching career at SV Lippstadt 08 near Dortmund. After a promising start to his coaching career in England in which Norwich moved into the top six in October, Farke saw the Canaries drop out of the promotion race in the second half of the season and finally finished in 14th place.
Over the summer, the German has brought in a number of players from Europe, along with two familiar faces, Tim Krul and Jordan Rhodes. Former Newcastle ‘keeper, Krul, joined on a free from Brighton while Rhodes joined on loan from Sheffield Wednesday. After impressing at Huddersfield and Blackburn in the early part of his career, Rhodes has managed to find the net just 16 times in the last three seasons at Middlesbrough and Wednesday and is looking to reboot his career in East Anglia.
In their opening game at St Andrew’s, Norwich twice came from behind with two goals from Onel Hernández, both in the last seven minutes, to take a point against Birmingham having dominated possession with 70% although the shot count was pretty even. As always in the early part of the season, it’s difficult to know exactly what to expect but it will certainly be a good test for Darren Moore’s team.
Big Dave himself has some decisions to make. It may be perhaps a little early to bring Craig Dawson back into the fold, but one would hope he will be back training with the first team squad very soon. Dwight Gayle should start which should certainly add some potency up front, but it’s in midfield where Albion looked overrun on Tuesday evening and that is where Moore’s biggest challenge lies.
His lack of experience as a coach remains a concern, but the addition of Graeme Jones to his staff last week will hopefully help to address that. Having spent several years working alongside one of the best young managers in English football, Jones should certainly be able to add some much needed nous to the coaching team.
Based on Tuesday’s game, it is clear to me that Livermore and Brunt cannot play in a two in the centre of midfield, and I am also concerned whether either Brunt or Morrison have the legs for a Cmampionship campaign. Meanwhile, Harvey Barnes did not produce anything like his first half performance against Bolton, but that should be expected from a young player.
Speaking of young players, Sam Field has not been near the squad so far this term, and it is unclear whether that is down to injury or not. I would have certainly expected him to feature strongly this season, and he would definitely add some energy to the middle of the park. Moore opted not to bring him into the squad at the end of last season, so there must be a question as to whether he is rated by the new Head Coach. With a dis-functioning midfield, however, no option can be ignored.
It will be interesting to see what changes are made for Saturday’s game, but it is certainly clear that changes are needed.
Carrow Road never used to be a happy hunting ground for the Baggies, with the difficult road trip to Norfolk often quoted as a contributory factor, but whether the A14 has made a difference or not, it has been a much kinder venue in recent years.
So much so that Albion have won on five of their last six league visits to Norwich meaning that they have now won more games at Carrow Road than they have lost. Their last visit in October 2015 was won thanks to the only goal of the game from the recently departed Salomón Rondón while, in April 2014, it was a Morgan Amalfitano strike that secured a vital three points in Pepe Mel’s team’s fight against relegation.
The one blot on the landscape of the last half-dozen visits came in May 2013 as the Baggies rounded off their away campaign in their best every Premier League season with a 4-0 defeat, the Canaries’ biggest ever win over Albion. The Baggies record win at Norwich came in February 1997 when a hat-trick from Paul Peschisolido and another from Richard Sneekes secured a 4-2 victory in a Division One fixture.
One of the most memorable games between the sides of recent years came at Carrow Road in February 2005 as the two clubs were battling against relegation. With Robert Earnshaw and Craig Fleming exchanging goals just before the break, Kieran Richardson put Albion ahead just after half time only for Gary Doherty to put the hosts level just after hour mark. It looked to be petering out to a draw when Damien Francis popped up with a winner for Norwich with five minutes left, although it was, of course, the Baggies who had the last laugh in May.
Indicative of Albion’s poor record in Norfolk is the fact that after winning 3-2 on their first ever visit to Carrow Road in a Division Two fixture in September 1938 thanks to a brace from Meynell Burgin, it took another four decades for them to register a second win at the ground. A goals from Cyrille Regis and a last minute penalty from Gary Owen secured a 2-0 win for Albion on Valentine’s Day 1981.
Regis developed a taste for scoring against the Canaries as he scored the goal of the season in the next meeting between the sides in the FA Cup a year later and then followed it up with a hat-trick on the Baggies next trip to Norfolk in a 3-1 victory in September 1982.
Having predicted two victories for the Baggies so far this season, I’m not doing to well so far. The team are still working out how to play in the division, and how to play with each other.
With Gayle in the side, I see that progress will be made and I predict Albion to come away with a point.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
19 Mar 2016 – Premier League
West Brom 0
Norwich City 1 (Brady)
Last meeting at Norwich City
24 Oct 2015 – Premier League
Norwich City 0
West Brom 1 (Rondón)
Albion’s Record against Norwich City