#2 Playing without pressure and expectation
One factor that has led fans and media to believe that Albion will return straight back to the Championship is the fashion in which they finished the previous season.
Granted, Albion crawled over the finish line and were indebted to other clubs for securing results against Brentford which ensured their return to the Premier League, but the reasoning behind the mini collapse can be debated.
After the eventful evening of July 22nd, Jake Livermore admitted that the squad “cared too much” and, if anything, that “we put too much pressure on ourselves”. He was referring to consequences of not winning promotion, such as people they care deeply about behind the scenes losing their jobs.
If financial pressure was the main factor behind the struggle we can expect the players to return to their best as promotion to the top flight has brought much-needed financial security to the Hawthorns and solidified our position as a club throughout the pandemic.
Or perhaps the pressure came from other fans and the media? With Albion and Leeds entering the lockdown as clear favourites to gain promotion, near enough everyone presumed the two automatic positions were secure, this then allowed for the chasing pack to play with nothing to lose — something that worked so favourably for Brentford — with no catastrophic ramifications on clubs if they lost a fixture.
This resulted in an incredible run of form for the Bees and took the promotion battle to the final day.
If the regular attendance of the Sky Sports cameras wasn’t a big enough burden for the Baggies, everyone was now speculating that they could be caught.
It’s human nature to look over your shoulder and you cannot blame anyone at the club for being aware of the threat that Thomas Frank’s men provided.
However, it is the reaction to pressure that makes teams successful and that has to be a lesson Albion learn from. One strong indication that pressure was the reason that Albion faltered is when the tables turned and promotion was in Brentford’s hands: they lost to lowly Stoke and Barnsley in the final games.
Life in the Premier League brings different expectations and completely different ambitions for promoted teams who go from striving for success to searching for survival and Albion are no exception.
As with every new Premier League season, predictions are made and opinions are voiced with the majority of pundits and fans believing that Albion will return to the Championship.
Whilst this may or may not be the case, one thing that is eased from these presumptions is the pressure and expectation on the players. Bilić will be hoping that the players will be able to play with freedom and the confidence of the flair players such as Pereira, Diangana and Robinson will not be knocked after defeats.