At the start of the season a lot of the writers at Royal Blue Mersey expressed a desire for Blues' boss David Moyes to have a good go at Liverpool this season. We also wanted the gaffer to have a good go at teams away from home, especially those considered less powerful going forward than us. In my opinion, Saturday's trip to the West Midlands gave us the perfect opportunity to do the latter for the second time in a week following the emphatic victory over Aston Villa.
Moyes went for an unchanged lineup against West Brom, and why not? You don't change a winning side unless you are forced to, especially one who strung together over 500 passes and scored three first half goals away from home.
That, however, is where the similarities ended.
We started steadily. The ever reliable back four stayed compact without the ball and got big and wide with it. Darron Gibson was anchoring the midfield well. Leon Osman was working hard and showed some nice touches. But we just seemed to be panicking a little in front of a very resilient West Brom unit who were proving hard to break down and exploit, forcing the passes forward 30, 40, 50 yards instead of remaining patient and choosing the simple option and even going backwards to go forwards.
On 19 minutes though Gibson pulled up with what looked like a thigh strain when playing a lovely chipped ball through to Naismith who earned a corner. This incident is the basis for my rant!
Go for sides considered less powerful than us, especially away from home, like we did against an awful Aston Villa.
I'll give West Brom one thing over their Midlands neighbours - they are physically stronger than Villa by a mile. So much so that we often found ourselves unable to put our foot on the ball and string passes together purely down to physicality. And so, put the so far ineffective Marouane Fellaini back into midfield, leave the poor Steven Pienaar where he is and introduce Kevin Mirallas in behind Nikica Jelavic hoping to give the Croat more service than he had had up to now.
Nothing against Tony Hibbert here, but he simply was not the right option to introduce here. Not only did it mean Mirallas remained getting splinters on his arse, but it pushed Phil Neville into midfield. Neville did well in there against Man United at home, but he isn't the strongest of players now, is he? Fellaini dropping deeper however was the much more effective option.
Again we struggled to get our foot on the ball and string passes of the sort we witnessed a week previous together to any effect. There was no service to Jelavic. As time went on, and ran out for us to force Ben Foster into any save of note, we resorted to long balls. The solid Jagielka was the main culprit, but I don't mean that how it sounds. There were simply no other options on for him from the midfield and so the England man was forced to seek out the channels.
In the second half Moyes threw on Mirallas, who tore rings around Leyton Orient in midweek. But, he put him on the left hand side of midfield, put Pienaar in behind Jelavic, dropped Fellaini alongside Neville and moved Osman out to the right. Mirallas struggled to link up with Baines who had an absolute stinker down the left, looking more tired than anything, and he eventually switched Mirallas to the right with Pienaar on the left and Anichebe replacing Neville - but up front obviously.
The goals were poor from our point of view, but West Brom can feel very proud of them. The irony is, their first goal shouldn't have counted, as Marouane Fellaini ballooned a chance from 10 yards out with no challenge. From the next attack Peter Odemwingie threw in a great cross which was just too much for the outstretched leg of Jagielka to get to. Shane Long had left Sylvain Distin for dead and guided the ball past Howard from 6 yards. The blame for the second was also split between Howard and Marouane Fellaini, who really did have a bad day at the office. The Belgian switched off allowing Gareth McAuley to pinch a yard, sneak in front of Howard who seemed to flap at it and nod the ball home, wrapping the game up.
Moyes admitted afterwards he made some wrong decisions in the game which probably cost us some points. I have a lot of respect when managers admit they were wrong. But at this level wrong decisions are very costly.
This was a big game for the Blues and would have created tremendous momentum as we enter an absolutely ill timed, pointless international break. The flip side is, we wait just over two weeks to put it right at home to Newcastle United.
Comments are welcome below, as always.