Pep Guardiola brings his Manchester City side to the Hawthorns on Saturday for the second time looking to extend a seven match winning streak in the league that has seen City score an astonishing 27 goals.
However, as that mob from up the road proved on Tuesday evening, it is possible to stop them scoring although Albion seem to have lost that ability in recent weeks. Had the Baggies managed to keep a clean sheet in the last ten minutes of all their games this season, and defence is what they are supposed to be best at, they would have another seven points and be sitting in a very comfortable fourth place.
And to me, that is the nub of the problem. The style of football hasn’t changed from last season to this, but in the first half of last season Albion were taking their chances and defending well – this season, chances have gone begging far too often and there have been too many errors at the back. Yes, there has been a lack of attacking intent, and I think Pulis’s approach to the match of St Mary’s was wrong. But it’s nothing new – remember the 0-0 draw at Sunderland 18 months ago or the 1-1 draw at Hull last season – both defensive performances against struggling sides away from home. Had the Baggies managed to convert a couple of the leads over Stoke, Watford and Leicester into victories, the dire performance at Southampton wouldn’t have had the same effect.
Two wins in eighteen games would have got many managers sacked, with Leicester and Everton having dispensed with their managers after a much shorter poor run of form, some may have been expecting it. Pulis, however, looks to be pretty rock solid in the eyes of the board for the time being, but if form results don’t improve before Christmas, he could well be spending Boxing Day with the family.
He should perhaps look at the visit of the runaway league leaders as a bit of a free hit. No ones is expecting anything other than a City victory, and if Albion can at least show some attacking intent, as they did in the second half of the League Cup tie between the sides in September, he may win a few of the dissenters back, at least temporarily.
The Baggies have not won a league match over City since the Abu Dhabi takeover, with their only point in that period coming courtesy of a 0-0 draw at the Hawthorns on Boxing Day 2011. That makes it one draw and six defeats against City in home Premier League games since a last minute goal from Roman Bednar win the Baggies all three points in a 2-1 win on 21st December 2008. There are three players involved that day who could be involved Saturday – James Morrison and Vincent Kompany both started the match while Chris Brunt was a late substitute for the Baggies.
The vagaries of the fixture computer means that Manchester City visited the Hawthorns at exactly the same stage last season and, before the match, Albion were in 13th place with 10 points from their first nine games and City were top with 23 points. The only difference this season is that City have two more points. On that occasion, the Baggies surrendered the first half and went in 2-0 down, played much better after the break but ended up conceding two further goals late on.
It’s hard to see anything other than a victory for the visitors.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
20 Sep 2017 – League Cup 3rd Round
West Brom 1 (Yacob)
Manchester City 2 (Sané (2))
22 Sep 2010 – League Cup 3rd Round
West Brom 2 (Zuiverloon, Cox)
Manchester City 1 (Jo)
Albion’s Record against Manchester City
|Premier League Record|