Chang­ing back might just be way for­ward...

Birmingham Post - - SPORT -

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

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