Hello, everybody, and welcome to the weekend roundup.
Due to time restraints (I’m traveling to Barcelona tomorrow, to watch Barça against Villarreal on Wednesday), this article is going be shorter than usual. We’re focusing on the Premier League, and super-focusing on the biggest story in the top flight: West Brom’s improbable turnaround under Darren Moore.
Yes, yes, we’re aware that El Clasico took last night. It was an extraordinary game, which probably deserves a fuller review, but we tweeted about it extensively throughout the match. Check out our thoughts on the matter @Full90Football.
Premier League – Can West Brom Really Do It?
When Alan Pardew was finally fired, West Brom had lost a quite phenomenal eight games in a row, and were ten points from safety. Well, at the time of writing they haven’t lost in five games, and have beaten Manchester United, Tottenham and Benitez’s Newcastle in that span. They are now two points from safety.
How in the world did this happen?
An enormous amount of credit must, of course, go to Darren Moore. Whilst he might be no Guardiola with the chalk and blackboard, Moore has tapped into far more important resources for a club fighting for its life: passion, self-belief, pride. Ben Foster recently talked of the “unity” Moore had brought to the team; that he’d re-instilled a commitment to working for each other, rather than the individual.
West Brom’s biggest enemy, of course, is time. They only have one game remaining, away to Crystal Palace. On their current form, and with Palace’s Premier League status now secured (they’ve risen all the way up to 11th, somehow!) that’s an eminently winnable matchup. The problem is that their destiny and/or fate – as the pundits never tire from telling us – is out of their hands.
If they were to beat Palace, West Brom would finish on 34 points (far from an embarrassing total; that would’ve seen them stay up last year, over Hull City, on goal difference). Southampton and Swansea City are both on 33 points, and both have two games remaining (including one against each other, on Tuesday night). If West Brom beat Palace, and one of those teams loses both games, then the Baggies stay up. Swansea currently have a goal difference that’s three goals worse than West Brom’s – if they lose one and draw one, then again, West Brom will almost certainly stay up.
I worry that – if West Brom do stay up – this turnaround will get lost in history. It must not. To say that this team were the Premier League’s whipping boys for almost the entire season would be putting it nicely. The board effectively kept someone who they knew to be a terrible manager in place for so long simply because they were sure they were going down; thus, there was no point in making a change. They’d lost eight games in a row when he went, for goodness’ sake!
If West Brom stay up – and, to remove my Hat of Neutrality for one moment, I really hope they do after all this – it will be the most ridiculous turnaround I can remember; or, possibly, that I can imagine. This team were the definition of dead-and-buried. The fight that they’ve showed under Darren Moore has been astounding. Even after the abject displays they’ve put in for the vast majority of the season, I have to say that – and believe me, I hate to use this word – they simply deserve to remain in the Premier League.
On paper and on the pitch, there’s very little beauty to this West Bromwich Albion team. This accomplishment, however, would – in footballing terms – be poetic indeed.
For the sake of posterity, we’ll also whip through the results of my betting tips from last weekend.
If this is your first time reading this column, then here’s your super-quick “Previously… On Betting Tips.” I got off to a blistering start, and followed it up with two mediocre performances. I followed that up with a decent fourth week (including Liverpool’s second leg Champions League clash with Roma), and predicted that – coming into week five – the comeback was well underway.
That was… sort-of true. I came very, very close to a brilliant outing this week. I was one result away in both accumulators: Everton against Southampton, and Atlético Madrid against Espanyol (a game I actually attended, which was severely mismanaged by the usually-excellent Diego Simeone).
If either of those had come in, we’d have made a tidy little profit. As it is, we made an inconsequential loss of £0.88 on £8 bet. The ship has certainly been steadied, and I feel that we’re on the brink of a full-on recovery heading into the last week (of the domestic season, that is – I’ll be providing plenty of football betting tips when the World Cup rolls around).
As it is, I ask you merely to stay with me. Let’s bring it home in style for this final week!
Season Total, After 5 Weeks – Minus £5.41, on £48 bet.