It may take a small leap of imagination to believe that West Brom away constitutes a difficult fixture for Man City, but it is true and I believe that it will be a real test for a Man City side, who despite being the best side in the division by the underlying numbers, still seem to trying to feel their way into top gear.
Top gear and top form will arrive eventually, but while new formations and new personnel are being bedded in the media and fans alike will pose questions as to when Man City as a unit will 'click'.
Man City are an excellent side, and but for a touch more luck (Stoke away) and a increase in concentration (Arsenal home) Man City could have had more points on the board than the 14 already gained. No need to panic nor pine for players now at pastures new. Man City are capable of beating every team in this division at home, but what of our away form?
Away form, travel sickness, call it what you want was the only reason that City's title bid almost slipped off of the rails. A run of 5 defeats in 9 away games was almost too much for Man City fans, but if we sit here now, comfortable and content with the title having been won we can note that 2011/12's away form was Man City's best ever in the PL and the 2nd best away record in 2011/12.
We may never know the reasons for that terrible run of away form in 2011/12, Tevez's absence, Dzeko's form and a general lack of belief may be excuses or facts. Either way we cannot afford a spell of such turgid away form this season. We need to see more of the confident, dominant Man City that we see at The Etihad but away from home, too.
3pm Saturday at The Hawthorns would be a good place to start.
West Brom Home Form
West Brom 3-0 Liverpool
West Brom 2-0 Everton
West Brom 1-0 Reading
West Brom 3-2 QPR
Special tip of the hat to wins over both Merseyside clubs.
West Brom have achieved those victories with an average possession of 45.75%. West Brom aren't are a strong possession team at home and thus far, they haven't needed to be in order to achieve wins. The Baggies were out-possessed by Liverpool, Everton and QPR and managed to score a combined 8 goals in those three games.
Expect Man City to have the lions share of possession once again but this isn't something that should faze the home team. Counter attacking and defensive organization mean more to Steve Clarke than a relatively unimportant possession statistic.
Nothing here that indicates why West Brom have scored 9 and conceded just 2 in the process of winning all four games.
Shots On Target
The shots on target column gives us a far better indication of why west Brom have recorded 4 victories in their 4 home fixtures: They restrict the oppositions shots on targets to such an extent that it becomes incredibly difficult for the away team to get a foothold in the game.
The 3.25 shots on target +/- is a very good figure indeed and one which is vitally important when talking about winning a PL fixture.
West Brom's Shots On Target Ratio is an excellent 74%
This is essentially West Brom's share of the shots on target through their four home games so far. Man City will need to gain a larger share of the vitally important shots on target ratio if they are to gain a positive result at the Hawthorns.
Scoring %, Save % and pdo
Okay, so a quick explanation. PDO is save % and Scoring % added together. Anything over 100 is considered excellent but will also regress to the mean of 100 given enough time. West Brom's 116.5 pdo score is excellent but will also be viewed as a risk case and thus likely to move toward the mean of 100.
West Brom's save % looks normal, their scoring % slightly excellent at 45%.
West Brom And The First Goal
This, I feel, is the key chart. the one that is worth paying attention to over all others. Yes, there exist important things in football matches like shots, shots on target, an ability to restrict the oppositions shots, but sometimes football can be as simple as scoring the first goal.
That first goal can get the home crowd right behind the team and the tactical plan for the remaining time of the fixture becomes so much easier. A lead can be protected, possession can be ceded to the opposition in order to protect territory. Harmfull counter attacks can be launched.
West Brom's record of scoring the first goal can be placed into context by the overall 2011/12 PL record of teams who score the first goal.
Likelihood Of Results When Scoring First
|Win %||Draw %||Loss %|
The home team, if it scored the first goal of the game, can expect a win % of 71%. West Brom are naturally riding above that percentage right now.
West Brom have made a strong home start to their 2012/13 PL campaign. They have a maximum 12 points and have dispatched a quality outfit-Everton- and a team with quality who aren't putting it together yet, in Liverpool.
West Brom are a middling side by possession and the raw shot numbers but an excellent one in getting their shots on target and preventing the opposition from doing likewise, a +3.25 SoT differential is testament to that. The Baggies possess an excellent scoring % and pdo number- both of which may regress to the mean over time- but as of now those numbers are a testament to a side who are strong at home and will pose some good question of the visiting Blues on Saturday.
If Man City want to get anything substantial out of Saturday's away fixture it may be absolutely crucial to score the first goal of the game and put West Brom into the unusual home tactical situation of having to chase the game and take risks. If a team takes attacking risks it naturally leaves gaps in it's defensive shape that can be exposed; for it is only natural to think that if a team commits more bodies and tactical currency to attack in order to score an equalizer, it shall leave an increasing number of gaps at the back for a quality team to capitalize on.
Lets hope that Man City score that crucial, first goal of the game on Saturday. It might be essential to do so in order to win the game and/or continue our unbeaten start to the season.
West Brom will be a threat but one I expect Man City to be able to cope with, tired International legs and all.
Prediction West Brom 1-2 Man City