Whisper it quietly, lest their form vanish like a startled deer but West Brom look rather tasty under former Chelsea man Roberto Di Matteo. Nicknamed the “Boing Boing Baggies” for constantly suffering relegation followed by immediate promotion the club are currently sitting pretty in sixth place. While Blackpool hit the headlines by recording a staggering 4-0 win over Wigan, West Brom fell back into old habits as Premiership whipping boys, losing 6-0 to Chelsea but have recovered and made a strong start. Two seasons ago under Mowbray the Baggies were fairly embarrassing finishing with a grand total of 32 points. After six games they’ve already got just under a third of that.
It can hardly be said that West Brom have had an easy start this season either. After Chelsea they’ve drawn with Tottenham and beaten Arsenal in the league as well as Man City in the League Cup. Uzbekistan born winger Peter Odemwingie has been fantastic signing from Locomotiv Moscow, especially pleasing after the disgusting racial abuse he suffered from Locomotiv fans in Russia. Already having scored three goals this season including the winner against Sunderland he provides flair to the West Brom attack. Supported by Graham Dorrans and Chris Brunt the Nigerian international reflects Di Matteo’s desire for a silk over steel approach. Someone should alert the “experts” at Sky to an Italian coach offering exciting football given their penchant for falling back on lazy ethnic stereotypes during the Manchester City-Chelsea game.
Another comparison with Mowbray’s side is the defensive improvement. Last time West Brom were in the Premiership they were conceding at a rate of 1.8 goals a game. Taking out the anomalous Chelsea result that figure drops to a goal a game so far this season. More than that WBA look far composed at the back. Teams could score almost at will against Mowbray’s side. It’s great to see teams wanting to play open, engaging football but in the Premiership it’s an invitation to suicide. In a season which has been notable for debates over the ugly tactics of Wolves and Stoke the fact that a promoted side is looking defensively sharp without having to resort to kicking should be praised.
It is still early in the season and this run of form could peter out but West Brom could well avoid any relegation scrap if Di Matteo manages to not “Phil Brown” everything. Allowing Arsenal back into the game from 3-0 is not a good sign but then not many sides go to the Emirates and bag three in the first place. After so many seasons of bouncing between divisions it would be a refreshing change to see the Baggies cement their place as top flight team. It would be even better to see Genuine Nice GuyTM Di Matteo be the one to do it. The man is ridiculously suave, pleasant and intelligent. Again, whisper it quietly, but this might just be the start of a very good period for the Birmingham club.