Inside the Opposition: West Bromwich Albion

City welcome West Brom to the Etihad tomorrow following a great away draw in the Champion’s League in midweek. West Brom arrive in the middle of an OK, if unremarkable, season so far.

We spoke to Dan Watts to get the full. Dan’s West Brom site Baggies Facts is currently on a hiatus but Dan is still writing about the Premier League in general for our old friends at the Eagles Beak.

It feels like forever since our teams played. How has your season been going since we last saw you all those months ago? Happy with it?

It does seem like an age! Personally I’m happy with where the club are in terms of league position (11th). With teams like Newcastle and the almighty Aston Villa in the relegation zone it does show you how easy it is to get caught in amongst it. However, excitement levels are at an all-time low, and the fan base is completely split due to the (anti) football we play.

Tony Pulis gets something of a patronising coverage in the press and on social media for being stereotypically defensive and unambitious etc. How does the reality stack up? Does he really just play loads of centre backs?

That coverage and opinion is completely fair to a point. It is so frustrating because at times we’ve looked half decent and pulled off some solid results (wins against Arsenal, Man Utd, Everton and draws with Liverpool, Leicester, Chelsea) but then on most other occasions you’d rather be watching paint dry. Pulis’ methods do work and it does gain us clean sheets, but when you fail to register a single shot on target in SEVEN complete games throughout a season, fans do get a bit bored. It comes down to style versus results. I, like a few others think we could probably have both, even with Pulis in charge, if he adapted his rigid way of thinking.

On the centre-backs, there has been times this season where we’ve started four (played at left-back, right-back and defensive mid) and maybe even finished with five or six on the pitch. I will say that players such as Jonny Evans cannot be happy playing for West Brom and being played out of position constantly.

I remember being impressed with Rondon in the past. How is he doing so far?

Many Albion fans will say it’s taken him a while to settle however I don’t think that’s the case. If he’d not spent the entire season being completely isolated as the lone front man he will no doubt have created and scored a lot more than he has. For him to have bagged eight in all competitions shows his potential. If he has a strike partner and willing runners down the wings to support, he could double his tally next season. It’s a big ‘if’ though.

What’s going on with Berahino these days? Your feelings on him?

He has behaved like a petulant child for long spells. His brushes with the law, his poor attitude, his social media outbursts, his transfer deadline day efforts to force a move and his fallings out with other players just show that he still needs to do a lot of growing up. If Berahino had got his head down and just played football for the last two years there is no doubt he’d have probably got a move by now with the supporters and the clubs blessing. He has a lot of ability. He is without doubt the best finisher I’ve seen at the club since Kevin Phillips and nobody before him.

What are the main dangers City should be looking out for?

Set pieces from wide areas and corner kicks, but even then I don’t hold much hope this weekend.

James McClean has become something of a bogeyman for not complying with the poppy wearing thing… how does the West Brom fan base regard him?

It would be easier if I directed you to a piece I put together back in November on him, do have a read too as it might change your opinion on the guy, or it might not!

(That is a really good piece and well worth your time – Ed.)

I’m always interested in outside perspectives on City – what does our club look like to someone without any vested interest in it?

I personally have no ill feeling towards Manchester City as a club. As a fan base you have had to live in the shadows of United for many years and it must be great to be able to more than compete with them now. As long as your fans keep perspective and remember the times where you were struggling I think supporters of other clubs will be able relate to your supporter base more so than say an Arsenal or Liverpool.

On the playing side, it does outwardly look like you need to hit the refresh button and there is no doubt in my mind that Pep Guardiola will make you ridiculously formidable, maybe not straight away but you will be England’s biggest force withing two or three seasons.

Predicted line up and score?

Seeing as we are now pretty much safe it would be great if Pulis would allow us to have a go at you. However that could lead to us conceding a shed load and the man in the cap won’t allow for that. I’m going to say 3-0 to City with all three goals coming in the second half once you’ve got past our defence!

Team – Foster, Dawson, McAuley, Evans, Chester, Yacob, Fletcher, Sandro, McClean, Berahino, Rondon.

Thanks again for answering some questions, Dan! Good luck on the weekend.

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Written by Alex Timperley

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