West Bromwich Albion gained a point on the chasing pack after a forgettable Midland derby clash with Birmingham City. Both sides were restricted to a handful of chances in their return to league action as resolute defending from Birmingham held free scoring West Brom at arm’s length.
West Bromwich Albion Play Out Goalless Draw with Birmingham City
The Baggies started the brighter of the two sides and settled into the new normal quicker than their Midland counterparts. They dictated the tempo of the game, particularly through Romaine Sawyers in the middle of the park. But, they failed to stretch the organized Blues defence, lacking quality in the final third.
Despite having 66% possession and 18 attempts on goal, Albion registered just one shot on target. Everything they tried was a yard or two away from where it needed to be. There were too many opportunities sent begging through a misplaced pass or a wrong decision in the final third – errors that should be ironed out as match sharpness returns.
Scott Hogan’s Late Opportunities
Birmingham’s Scott Hogan was forced to feed off scraps with Albion dominating long periods of the games. But the striker, on-loan from Aston Villa, carved out a couple of chances late on that could’ve won all three points.
Two crosses late in the game fell to Hogan who was in scintillating form before the break. He had netted seven goals in his eight appearances since joining the club on loan but could only find the Albion goalkeeper with both efforts. First a header straight into the keepers’ arms and then a well-struck volley that troubled him only slightly.
West Bromwich Albion Revert to Type
Slaven Bilić spoke about possibly having too many options in the run up to this game. Perhaps it was this that led to the Albion boss reverting to the 4-2-3-1 system that they used earlier this season, opting to play Callum Robinson and Matt Phillips in the wide areas with Matheus Pereira behind the striker, in his favoured role, rather than the 4-3-3 system that he implemented before the break enforced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bilić moved around his midfield prior to the break to accommodate Filip Krovinovic in a deeper midfield role after a run of stellar performances. The change to 4-3-3 pushed Pereira out wide, creating a tighter, more balanced midfield three of Krovinovic, Sawyers and Jake Livermore. The return of Grady Diangana will have heavily impacted the team selection as Bilić looked to make the most of his creative forces.
The point moves West Brom to the top of the table on goal difference but with Leeds United still to play. More importantly, it slightly widens the gap to Fulham below them in third after their defeat to Brentford. The Baggies now have a seven-point gap and a vastly superior goal difference in the battle for automatic promotion.