Changing back might just be way forward...
FOOTBALL really is a funny old game. Darren Moore was appointed Albion’s head coach in May on the strength of his miraculous turn as caretaker manager last season.
From six games as interim boss, he collected 11 points and April’s Premier League Manager of the Month award for good measure.
Defensive solidity, organisation and resilience underpinned Moore’s success as stand-in manager, following the dismissal of Alan Pardew.
Roll on a few months and those steely traits have deserted his team in the Championship.
Clearly, the circumstances are now very different. Moore has ditched the 4-4-2 formation that served him so well in the top flight.
Eager to play on the front foot, Moore and his No.2, Graeme Jones, have implemented a 3-4-1-2 system. While that shape has complemented the attributes of Albion’s offensive players, not least Harvey Barnes and Dwight Gayle, it does not appear to suit his defenders.
Three of last season’s back four – Craig Dawson, Ahmed Hegazi and Kieran Gibbs – have been regulars this season. Yet that trio have looked anything but assured against teams with far less potency. Gibbs has adapted to his new role as left wing-back. But he also creates space behind him when he roams forward. Gaps that have left Kyle Bartley and the back three exposed.
Moore has continued to pick seven of the 11 players that allowed fans to dream of an unthinkable rescue act last season.
Yet those same players are starting to look lost and utterly susceptible as a defensive unit within 3-4-1-2.
Albion have kept only one clean sheet this season and have the worst defensive record in the top half of the Championship. They have won only one of their last six and now face table-toppers Leeds.
Surely now is the time to batten down the hatches. To get the defence right, first and foremost, and let the rest take care of itself. Moore isn’t afraid of change. Changing back to 4-4-2, the formation he knows best, may just be the way forward. Paul Suart