During the international break, two things happen to clubs that don’t play. Firstly, they integrate their new signings and secondly, they work on tactics. This return to action for Championship clubs marks the start of the campaign in earnest. Not that previous results don’t count, but the pre-transfer window results tend to look skewed once the table settles down around mid-October. However, their points tally puts Albion fourth in the table and these points are not to be scoffed at; that point from Cardiff City may be the one point that puts The Albion in the play-offs or over the line for automatic promotion. If you examine the tables from previous seasons, what is clear is that the table at this stage of the season is no arbiter of who will be top come May.
The Spanish way
The games coming up are what The Amex was built for. The nights start drawing in and the floodlights add that extra sheen to the atmosphere that makes the match-day experience. What of the new signings? Will Gus play them all? Probably not. The key question is who will fill the role vacated by the still injured Vicente. The most obvious starter is David Lopez who is looking more a like-for-like replacement for Vicente the more we know of him. The other likely starter could be Stephen Dobbie with Dean Hammond and Andrea Orlandi on the bench.
These are only thoughts at this stage for Gus Poyet. Training and the matches may well shake down the squad until it settles into more of a pattern. With no sign of a target man, this may well affect the tactics. It would not be beyond the realms of possibility to see the midfielders scoring more goals from now on as he uses the more powerful midfield to play in the manner of the fluid Spanish national team.
I still find myself pinching myself at this comparison, but it is not beyond credulity to see the join as it were. A possession based passing game, with mobile midfielders who are technically adept is the way Spain set themselves up to ‘tempo’ other teams to death. It’s harder to do at Championship level as very few players have the technical mastery of an Iniesta or Xavi. But The Albion are not far off with their quartet of La Liga experienced players. Bruno is, as predicted, a firm fan favourite, and Lopez looks like he might follow suit. The key comparison is the striker role. Spain played with the so called ‘Invisible 9’.
Now some Albion fans with long memories will recall The Albion having several of those, all of them unintentional. This looks like the pattern Gus will settle on until he needs to play more expansively, for example if the team go a goal behind. It looks like the Albion faithful may have to maintain their patience for some cagey games ahead until the new signings start to show their mettle, then, who knows, Gus may not need that No 9 after all.
Photo: copyright: Geoff Penn