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Evolution Or Revolution – West Bromwich Albion

 

Evolution or Revolution is a new series from Stats Perform looking at which teams need only a few tweaks ahead of the 2020/21 season and which require a fundamental reboot. In this instalment, Jonny Cooper analyses the three areas West Bromwich Albion must focus on to retain their top-flight status following their promotion back to the Premier League.

 

By: Jonathan Cooper

Convert Draws Into Victories

West Bromwich Albion secured their fifth promotion to the Premier League – a record total for any club – finishing second behind Leeds United. After a strong start, their form in 2020 was only the seventh-best in the Championship, picking up 32 points in 21 matches (W8 D8 L5), with the Baggies only winning three of their final 11 matches and relying on slip-ups from rivals Brentford to get over the finish line.

No team drew more Championship matches than West Brom (17), which was the most by a team promoted to the top-flight since Sunderland in 1995/96 and one of only five instances of a club being promoted to the top-flight despite drawing at least 17 times.

Most Draws By Promoted Teams

SeasonTeamGamesDrawsPosition
1971/72Birmingham City42182
1978/79Crystal Palace42191
1980/81Notts County42172
1995/96Sunderland46171
2019/20West Bromwich Albion46172

Seven of those draws came after scoring the first goal of the game – the Baggies won just 70% of their matches when scoring first in the Championship (16 of 23), far lower than fellow promoted sides Fulham (88%) and Leeds (90%).

In their last season in the Premier League (2017/18), West Brom won just six of their 17 matches when scoring first (35%), one of the lowest percentages in a season in Premier League history. They cannot afford to drop points in a similar fashion in 2020/21.

Most Points Dropped From Winning Positions: 2017/18 Premier League

RankTeamPoints Dropped
20West Bromwich Albion26
18Watford21
18Southampton21
17Leicester City20
16Bournemouth19
16Stoke City19
Stats Perform Verdict: Evolution Required

Vulnerable At Home

Although no side scored more home Championship goals than West Brom in 2019/20 (44, level with Brentford), the Baggies managed just five clean sheets in their 23 games at the Hawthorns, the same total as relegated Charlton Athletic. Between March 2019 and January 2020, West Brom failed to keep a single clean sheet at home in the league, a club record run of 18 matches. The average league position of the other Championship sides to keep five or fewer home clean sheets last season was 18th.

West Brom’s tally of five home clean sheets was the fewest by a side to win promotion from the Championship since Norwich City kept four in 2010/11, proving how rare it is for sides to win promotion with such a porous backline.

Slaven Bilic will be having his second crack at the Premier League as manager – the Croatian previously managed West Ham between August 2015 and November 2017. Conceding goals was a habit for the Hammers under Bilic – they shipped 138 in his 87 games in charge, the second-highest figure between the start of the 2015/16 season and his final game in charge in November 2017, when they lost 4-1 to Liverpool, the tenth time West Ham had conceded at least four times in a league game under Bilic.

Goals Conceded By West Ham Under Bilic

Premier League - August 8, 2015 - November 4, 2017Goals Conceded
Bournemouth148
West Ham United138
Watford136
Swansea City135
Crystal Palace135
Stats Perform Verdict: REVolution Required

Susceptible From Set Pieces

Although they were hard to break down in open play – only Leeds (19) and Brentford (22) conceded fewer goals from open play than West Brom (25) – the Baggies did prove weak to set-pieces, conceding 20 goals. Those 20 goals made up 44% of the total goals West Brom conceded in the Championship in the 2019/20 season, the second-highest ratio behind only Leeds (46%).

Over half of the set piece goals West Brom conceded came via corners (11 of 20), while their tally of 24% of total league goals conceded via corners (11/45) was the third-worst ratio across the Championship last season.

And, their vulnerability from set pieces was also highlighted in conceding the highest percentage of goals via headers in the whole division – again 11 out of their total 45 league goals conceded (24%).

Highest Percentage of Goals Conceded From Headers: 2019/20 Championship

TeamHeaded Goals Conceded% Goals Conceded Via Headers
West Bromwich Albion1124.4%
Huddersfield Town1724.3%
Fulham1122.9%
Hull City1921.8
Brentford821.1%
Stats Perform Verdict: REvolution Required

Review other pieces in this series:
Arsenal
Manchester United
Manchester City
Chelsea
Tottenham Hotspur
Leicester City
Leeds United
Fulham

 


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