Norwich City v West Brom – Three points needed to settle the nerves
After an inauspicious start to life in the Championship, Darren Moore will be desperate to get the first win of the season under his belt.
Building on the late rally at Nottingham Forest in midweek that got Albion up and running with three points at Carrow Road will certainly help settle the nerves.
During the last half an hour at the City Ground, the Baggies played with a welcome intensity that had not yet been seen.
That was partly down to Dwight Gayle’s impact off the bench, and the new loanee – who bagged 23 goals in this division two seasons ago – is expected to start up front tomorrow.
Now the transfer window has shut for the Premier League, there are fewer distractions for Moore’s squad to contend with.
The Baggies have managed to keep hold of important players like Craig Dawson, Jay Rodriguez, Jake Livermore, Matt Phillips and Nacer Chadli.
Whether that hardball stance over valuations will work in their favour remains to be seen, because a lot now depends on those players’ mentalities.
There is obviously nothing wrong with Phillips, who has been the best player in the opening two games, and capped off his performances with a stunning equaliser on Tuesday.
Rodriguez and Livermore have remained professional throughout, but Dawson’s moody conduct behind the scenes has led to him being left out completely.
There is an argument that, on a quiet deadline day, Albion made two big signings in the form of Dawson and Chadli.
But that’s only the case if those two players can get their heads right for a gruelling Championship campaign.
Tomorrow’s game in Norwich may come too soon for that, with places on the bench the most either could expect.
Rodriguez is expected to start alongside Gayle, and considering the former Southampton striker scored 21 goals the last time he was in the Championship, that could be a potent strike force.
Moore is likely to keep faith in the same backline that featured against Forest, which would mean Manchester City loanee Tosin Adarabioyo will keep his place at right-back.
The midfield conundrum is the one in most desperate need of a solution. Albion were crying out for a number 10 against Bolton, but then James Morrison was ineffective against Forest.
Chris Brunt and Jake Livermore is a pair that served Moore well last season, but they were run ragged by Aitor Karanka’s men at times.
His other options include veteran Gareth Barry, who might provide a calm head, or the youthful vigour of Rekeem Harper or Sam Field, who would provide extra legs but inexperience.
If the troubles continue, Albion are not stuck with what they have. The transfer window hasn’t slammed shut for them like the Premier League clubs, it has just been left on the latch.
Albion still have until the end of the month to bring in new faces on loan, and could even add an obligation or option to buy into the deal.
If victories don’t start coming soon, there will be a growing need for fresh blood.
Albion improved greatly when Dwight Gayle came on at Forest. He looked sharp up front and even hit the post. Now he’s in line to start at Norwich.
In February 1997, Paul Peschisolido cracked home a hat-trick in a 4-2 win at Carrow Road. Richard Sneekes grabbed the other goal for the Baggies.
Albion (4-4-2): Johnstone, Adarabioyo, Bartley, Hegazi, Gibbs, Phillips, Brunt (c), Livermore, Barnes, Gayle, Rodriguez.
Subs: Myhill, Dawson, Barry, Harper, Burke, Chadli, Robson-Kanu.
Norwich (4-2-3-1): Krul, Marshall, Hanley, Klose, Husband, Tettey, Pukki, Srbeny, Hernandez, Trybull, Rhodes.