Jermaine Jenas believes that West Brom will be able to create chances this season but is concerned by their striker options and Slaven Bilic’s switch to a back-three against Leicester.
Albion suffered a dismal return to the Premier League on Sunday when they lost 3-0 to Leicester at The Hawthorns with Timothy Castagne and two Jamie Vardy penalties being enough to sink Bilic’s newly-promoted side.
In last season’s successful promotion bid from the Championship, Bilic alternated between a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-3-3 but opted to play a 3-4-3 against Leicester on Sunday – a decision which stunned Jenas and fellow pundit Micah Richards.
“There were times in the early stages of the game where I thought West Brom looked really good,” Jenas said on Match of the Day 2 on Sunday night, as shown on BBC iPlayer.
“The link-up play with those three players – Diangana, Sawyers and Pereira – was good.
“I think everyone worries at the top end of the pitch. Is Robinson going to be able to get them goals? He’s not proven, he didn’t really do it at Sheffied United so he’s going to have to step up.
“But I do believe the creativity is there. It was strange they went to a back-three all of a sudden.”
Former Manchester City and Aston Villa defender Richards claims that although a back-three makes you more compact, it can also lead to miscommunication among the defence and allow opposition attackers more space.
He said: “Sometimes when you’ve got a [back-three] and there’s only one up front, you’re all marking the same player. Sometimes it’s all too easy. ‘It’s not my man, we’ve got Vardy here.’ And that’s what they were doing.
“It gave the opposition too much space to get in there and dictate the game.
“I’m not going to argue with Bilic but it didn’t work.”
Bilic’s switch in formation was certainly out of the blue.
While we have nothing against a manager adapting to the team he plays against, it would have been nicer to see West Brom do what they know they’re good at and attack in numbers.
Albion lined up with a back-three with the hope of keeping Vardy quiet.
If you don’t include the two penalties, was Vardy much of a threat before Bilic changed to a back-four? No, he wasn’t.
But, as Richards points out, the back-three does allow opposition attackers to use space around the defence, which is why Harvey Barnes had such an influential game against his former club on his return to The Hawthorns.
Bilic and his players will have learned a lot from that defeat and the Carabao Cup match against Harrogate Town on Wednesday is the perfect opportunity to bounce back.
In other West Brom news, Richard Keys has tipped Bilic to leave The Hawthorns before Christmas.