West Brom: Baggies brilliant start to life under Clarke
Steve Clarke has been assistant boss to two legends of the game in Jose Mourinho and Kenny Dalglish. However, when he was appointed as Roy Hodgson's successor at the Hawthorns many people thought Jeremy Peace had made a huge mistake. Number twos do not always make the greatest managers, but Clarke is well on the way to disproving that myth.
West Bromwich Albion have made a fantastic start to the new campaign and Clarke has turned the Hawthorns into a fortress. Liverpool, Everton, Reading and QPR have all left the Black Country empty-handed and only Queens Park Rangers have managed to breach the Baggies defence at home. Only runaway leaders Chelsea have a better home record so far this season.
Compare that form to 12 months ago and the transformation is alarming. Last year the Baggies were still awaiting their first home win of the season - although they had played Manchester United, Stoke City and Fulham - and only had one goal to their name. This year the Baggies always look dangerous going forward and have bags of goals in them.
But while they are looking invincible at home, on their travels they still appear suspect. Clarke's men are still waiting for their first away win of the campaign having only picked up two points - at Spurs and at Villa - and were thrashed by Fulham. Last year the Baggies were looking threatening away. They took the lead at Stamford Bridge before going down 2-1, beat Norwich City at Carrow Road and drew with Sunderland. This year they are the only team in the top eight that hasn't won away so far.
West Brom have always been a good footballing team to watch. Keen to get the ball down, look around and play the simple ball, but defensively they were always suspect. It looks as though Clarke has made tightening up the defence his ultimate goal. They are a whopping 10 goals better off this time than last season, while the strikers contine to find the back of the net.
In every aspect West Brom have improved. They've won more games, scored more goals, conceded fewer, gained more points accrued a better goal difference and everything looks great. The Baggies are in the top six and it would be a huge achievement for Steve Clarke if he could guide the Albion into Europe at the first time of asking.
The Baggies are the top dogs in the West Midlands and the fans must be loving it with Wolves and Birmingham in the Championship and Aston Villa struggling for form. But can they keep it going? That's the million dollar question. However, if they stay tight and organised at the back, with the goal threat of Long, Lukaku and Odemwingie, the Baggies should be up there vying for a European slot.
Calling all Baggies fans: How would you assess Steve Clarke's job at the with the Baggies? Are you confident you can push on and stay in the mix for a European place? What fears do you have about your squad? Whatever your view, we'd love to hear from you.
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