West Bromwich Albion travel to Carrow Road this afternoon for the second time this season, having lost in Norfolk in the Capital One Cup a month ago. The Baggies conceded more goals that evening than they have done in all four of their Premier League away games this season combined, although that was, of course, a much weakened team.
The Canaries have not tasted victory since that game and were on the end of a 6-2 drubbing last weekend at St James’s Park having lost 2-1 at home to Leicester City in the game before that.
Tony Pulis may have stopped the mini-slump with three points against Sunderland last weekend, but the nature of that victory, courtesy of a goal from Saido Berahino that was fortunate to have been allowed, has done little to change the sense of frustration that many Baggies fans are feeling at the style of football that the Welshman is producing. Those fans who make the long trip to Norwich this afternoon are unlikely to be treated to anything other than a defensive performance with the hope of a goal on the break.
Having said that, Pulis surprised us all with the selection of Stéphane Sessègnon last Saturday for his first appearance in the Premier League this season. The Benin international’s only other appearance this term was in that defeat at Carrow Road last month, but he was arguably Albion’s best player against Sunderland and will be hoping for another start this afternoon, although if James Morrison has recovered from his injury, he may find himself on the bench.
One player that must be hoping for a place on the bench is Serge Gnabry. Who knows what he and his manager, Arsène Wenger, are thinking of the decision to go on loan to West Bromwich Albion but it surely can’t be positive. Gnabry has made his only starts for Albion in the two Capital One Cup ties and he hasn’t featured in a match day squad since Albion’s last trip to Carrow Road. His only Premier League appearance came in the game against Chelsea and perhaps the roulette he peformed with near enough his first touch did not endear him to Mr Pulis.
In the meantime, the young German has scored a wonder goal for his U21 international side and starred in Albion’s U21 win over Stoke City on Monday, and he will surely be hoping that he has done enough for force himself into the squad.
If he does, however, it is likely to be at the expense of Albion’s other young winger, Callum McManaman. Having been the best Albion player on the field against Chelsea in August, he has been very much a bit-part player since his only other start being in the 0-0 draw with Southampton. James McClean seems to be Pulis’s preferred wide man at the moment and, while the Irishman has performed well and will always work hard for the team, he does not offer the creative spark that McManaman or Gnabry does.
James Morrison remains a doubt for the Baggies but he is their only injured player other than long term absentee Ben Foster.
Former Baggies Youssuf Mulumbu will once again miss the chance to face his old club thanks to a metatarsal injury, but Lewis Grabban and Gary Hooper could be in contention. The other former Albion favourite, Graham Dorrans, is likely to play having featured in every one of City’s games this season.
Much as I am frustrated by the style of football that Pulis’s tactics produce, they do tend to produce results more often than not, particularly on the road. Norwich do not have the attacking threat of Crystal Palace which is why I am going for another narrow Baggies win.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
23 Sep 2015 – League Cup 3rd Round
Norwich City 3 (Jarvis, Lafferty, Pocognoli (o.g.))
West Brom 0
5 Apr 2014 – Premier League
Norwich City 0
West Brom 1 (Amalfitano)
Albion’s Record against Norwich City
|Premier League Record|