#3 Escaping the stereotypes
The general social media reaction to Albion’s promotion was one of negativity from fans across the country. There were two claims which other fans used as their reasoning for being disappointing with Slaven Bilić’s side earning promotion.
One was that a high proportion of fans still believed that the Baggies played a similar style to the cautious, defensive and structured approach that Tony Pulis made synonymous with the club; and the other is that Albion are a “yo-yo side”.
Albion fans will be desperate for the team to remove these tags from the club, as in the opinion of most supporters they are undeserved. To claim that this current Baggies side play a defensive brand of football is ignorant; anyone who watched the Championship last year would disagree.
In both the last two seasons which Albion spent in the Sky Bet Championship they scored the second highest amount of goals playing attacking based styles.
Yes, the football throughout the 2018/19 was unbalanced to say the least, with the firepower of Dwight Gayle, Jay Rodriguez and Harvey Barnes papering over the cracks of the awful attempts to play out from the back and a disjointed team which lacked desire at times.
And the 2019/20 side showed bundles of attacking flair through the likes of aforementioned Pereira and Diangana. Despite not possessing a prolific goalscorer to score such a number proves how much attacking quality the team possessed.
Albion averaged 53% possession last season which shows that Bilić likes his side to dominate the ball as opposed to sitting back and hitting opponents on the counter.
With a rating of 14.7, Albion also averaged the second most shots per game — another indication of the attacking philosophy.
Fans who think the style has always been negative in the top flight are also wrong; under Tony Mowbray throughout the 2008/09 season Albion aimed to attack and always looked busy in possession. That season the players were deemed too nice and didn’t perform the basics well enough, quite a contrast to the Tony Pulis teams right?
And who can forget the 2012/13 eighth place finish under Steve Clarke when Romelu Lukaku first made his name in English football. The label of a boring team is truly undeserved and why should one man’s three year spell in charge define the club?
Throughout the first half of the 21st century, Albion were certainly a “yo-yo team” with relegations in 2003, 2006 and 2009, whilst earning promotions in 2002, 2004, 2008 and 2010. No arguments there.
However the last ten years have been a different story: since promotion was won under Roberto di Matteo, the clubs most recent Premier League spell lasted two years shy of a decade. Surely that would make Albion an established top flight club as opposed to one consistently bouncing up and down the leagues.
To add some context that eight year spell in the Premier League, Albion can be compared to some other clubs who were promoted throughout that era.
Hull, Norwich, QPR, Cardiff and Burnley (who have to be considered as an established top flight club after reaching Europe) were all promoted and relegated at least twice throughout Albion’s most recent spell in the top division. Even a massive club in the case of Newcastle were relegated and promoted the same amount of times as the Baggies were this past decade, and nobody mentions The Magpies as “yo-yo club”.
Perhaps you’re reading this and thinking “eight years is barely anything!”. To add further context in regards to the length of that spell, West Ham and Southampton recently completed their eighth seasons back in the big time, two clubs who are widely considered established Premier League clubs.
Crystal Palace have began to embark on their eighth season in the Premier League whilst this will only be Leicester City’s seventh season since their most recent promotion, albeit I cannot deny winning the title does play a major part in establishing themselves as a Premier League club.