Coming off the back of both teams suffering defeats to Merseyside outfits, West Brom and Chelsea will be looking to bounce back as they clash at the Hawthorns this Saturday.
The Baggies are yet to earn a Premier League point this season falling to Leicester on the opening day and more recently losing to Carlo Ancelotti’s revitalised Everton. Kieran Gibbs dismissal early in the first half at Goodison made it an uphill battle for the remaining ten on the pitch. However, there were promising signs for Slaven Bilic.
Grady Diangana opened the scoring with a superbly taken left-footed strike from the edge of the box and Matheus Pereira showcased his dead ball expertise with a brilliant free kick but Everton overpowered their midlands opponents winning 5-2.
Frank Lampard’s new look Chelsea faced their first hurdle in proving that they can be title challengers as they faced reigning Premier League champions Liverpool. Unfortunately for the Blues, Sadio Mane was in fine form scoring a brace for a comfortable win at Stamford Bridge not helped by the sending off of Andreas Christensen right before half time.
To fill the gap left in the defence record signing Kai Havertz was taken off at half time after not making much of an impact in the first half, and the same could be said for Timo Werner who was brilliantly marshalled all game by make-shift centre back Fabinho.
Frank Lampard has a big decision to make for this game as to how he sets up his team and in particularly where he plays his two German stars.
Havertz has drifted in multiple positions starting his debut on the wing and then playing as a false number nine against Liverpool with neither being effective. Whereas Werner has shifted between playing down the middle and on the left of the front three.
Two of the Bundesliga’s best players last season haven’t exactly had the start they would’ve wanted to their Chelsea careers, but Havertz was able to display his talent in the EFL cup fixture against Barnsley where the 21-year-old scored a hattrick, playing in a more creative number 10 role, much better suited to how the German wants to play.
West Brom operating with a back five could give more opportunities for Havertz to find space in between the midfield and defence while Werner can roam around and find small gaps between the left and right centre-backs while also using his electric pace if the wing-backs are further up the pitch and there is a quick turnover off the ball.
Slaven Bilic hasn’t had the easiest of starts back in England’s top flight, facing two of the toughest teams the division has to offer and sadly for the Croatian it isn’t going to get any easier. The Baggies have struggled in their opening two games to consistently compete with teams for the whole 90 minutes, usually dropping off around the hour mark.
This could be down to the back five system Bilic has used in the opening two games, something that was barely seen in their successful championship promotion season and it could be that the players are still adapting to that system but currently it isn’t working, eight goals conceded in two games isn’t the best look for a newly promoted team.
It can often be a case of finding the right system against more technical opposition, case in point, Norwich struggled to find the best way to use their players last season and it ultimately led to their relegation, whereas Sheffield United thrived in the back five system they deployed leading them to a top half finish.
Bilic now needs to make a big decision of what formation he goes for against Chelsea and if it is with wing-backs and it doesn’t work maybe a re-think is needed on the training ground.
On the other hand, going forward West Brom have some very talented attackers in particular Pereira and Diangana.
Both were integral in earning promotion last season and the purchase of Diangana from West Ham this summer improves West Brom’s chances of survival drastically and we saw that against Everton with his opening goal and the same could also be said for Perreira who hit a delightful free-kick past Jordan Pickford.
If West Brom want to have any chance of picking up all three points against the Blues they simply have to get these two on the ball, the creativity of Pereira finding passes and the driving running of Diangana will make life hard for the Chelsea backline and an early goal for the Baggies would be perfect, ideally with no one stupidly being sent off.
Someone who could definitely improve the West Brom defence is their latest signing who has just a bit of history with the Baggies weekend opponents. Branislav Ivanovic, who won ten major trophies with Chelsea, joined West Brom after his contract with Zenit St Peterburg expired and could be a perfect addition for Bilic.
Although he may not be at his athletic best, the 36-year-old brings nine years of Premier League experience with him and can undoubtedly instil some experience and winning mentality into the West Brom backline.
Both Chelsea and West Brom have been forced to play the second halves of their previous games with ten men. As for this weekend they’ll be hoping to keep 11 vs 11 throughout the 90 with both Bilic and Lampard needing the points for different reasons but I expect Lampards Blues to prevail with all three points.