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Question and Answer: West Bromwich Albion

Ahead of the Monday Night Football trip down the M6 to The Hawthorns, I caught up with Matt Evans from the ESPN FC West Brom blog and asked him his thoughts on the season so far, the key men to look out for, Victor Anichebe and his thoughts on their new manager, Pepe Mel.

One to watch - Seamus Coleman
One to watch - Seamus Coleman
Chris Brunskill

Matt, a general question to start with. What have you made to both West Brom’s and Everton’s first half of the season so far?

Apart from a couple of notable results, such as winning at Old Trafford and the 2-2 draw away to Chelsea where West Brom were robbed, it has been a very disappointing first half of the season for Albion, although it wasn't totally unexpected considering the slump in form West Brom went through at the back end of the previous campaign. Everton's start has been hugely impressive, I've thoroughly enjoyed every game of their's which has been on TV, even in the defeat to Man City I thought Everton put on a really good show.

At the start of the season what were your hopes and expectations given the very good season you had last time around? Have they changed now or do they remain the same?

I was hoping for more of the same, but the loss of key players from the previous campaign meant I was expecting a slightly less successful season, just a bit of mid-table mediocrity and maybe a cup run. Now, it's simply hoping that we can stay in the league and although I expect we should have just about enough quality to do that, it's going to be a tense 2nd half of the campaign.

Many felt that the dismissal of Steve Clarke was harsh. Do you agree?

It was similar to when Roberto Di Matteo was sacked and replaced by Roy Hodgson. Those on the outside of the club saw it as harsh, picking up on some of the great results Di Matteo achieved whilst ignoring the horrendous form that followed. The same happened with Clarke, I would say the majority of Albion fans would say it was fair. We only finished 8th last season because of an incredible start and the general poor form of everyone else around us. The style of play under Clarke really did decline quickly, to the point where he seemed to aim for a 0-0 every game and had no plan to change when the opposition scored. Couple this with a break-down in relations with the Chairman, partly down to Clarke mooting himself for the Everton job in the summer, and the sacking was pretty inevitable.

After a long wait, Pepe Mel was finally appointed as West Brom's new head coach. What is the general consensus amongst fans about his appointment?

I'd say there is a sense of excitement about his appointment, mainly because of his sides reputation for playing attacking, easy on the eye football. However, this excitment is tinged with a sense of apprehension, bringing someone in who's new to the league at such a crucial time could go either way, Albion fans will simply be hoping that he can replicate the achievements of Pochettino at Southampton rather than joining the list of failed foreign managers in the Premier League.

The signing of Victor Anichebe was seen as a bit of cracking business. He had a decent season for us last season. What have you made of him at West Brom?

It was a cracking bit of business...for Everton. What convinced Albion to pay 6 million for him I'll never know, it was just a desperation buy. He seems to be constantly injured and when he's on the pitch, he spends more time on the floor sulking and complaining about not getting a free kick than producing anything noteworthy. He has one goal for West Brom this season and to be honest, I can't see him getting many more. 6 million for a striker who can't score goals, what were we thinking?

Saido Berahino has impressed me, and his finish against West Ham was top quality. Can he squeeze into a seat onto the plane heading for Brazil in June?

With Theo Walcott injured and Jermain Defoe harming his chances of going to the world cup by going to play in the MLS, I think he has a good chance of getting onto the plane for the World Cup. He is very similar to Defoe in that he is a very good finisher, but he has a lot more to his general game than Defoe, plus his ability to play as a wide forward might also appeal to Roy Hodgson, who knows Saido well from his time at West Brom.

The return of Ben Foster must be a welcome boost for you? Who could be coming in and leaving this month?

Foster's return was a boost, there wasn't much of a feelgood factor around the club with the poor form, poor football and the sacking of Clarke, so to see him back after a long spell on the sidelines certainly provided some cheer, albeit temporarily! I'd expect Shane Long to leave this window, whilst Markus Rosenberg and Graham Dorrans are both surplus to requirements if any takers can be found. The priority should be to bring in a left back, with Aaron Cresswell at Ipswich the name that is often mentioned. A striker might also be brought into the club if Long and Rosenberg leave, with a loan bid rumoued to be tabled for AC Milan's Alessandro Matri.

Obviously, a big factor behind last seasons high finish for you was Romelu Lukaku. What did you think of him, and is he performing for us as he did for you?

Lukaku is the best player I've seen in an Albion shirt by some distance. He has all the attributes to be a star of the world game-pace, power, strong hold-up play, powerful heading and good finishing. It did take him a while to adapt and be able to start games with us, but once he did, he carried us through the 2nd season. And from what I've seen of him for Everton, he might be performing even better than he did for us.

Do you think it is realistic for Everton to keep hold of him past this season?

Only if another loan arrangement could be reached with Chelsea, which isn't as easy as it sounds, as was seen on deadline day when he seemed nailed on to be re-joining us for another year. If Chelsea decide to sell him, some of the world's biggest clubs, with the deepest pockets will be in for him and Everton simply won't be able to compete on that financial level.

What can we expect to see from West Brom come Monday night at the Hawthorns, in terms of formation and patterns of play?

With the new Head Coach, your guess is as good as mine! Albion will probably go 4-5-1, with Youssuff Mulumbu and Claudio Yacob in holding midfield with Nicolas Anelka or Stephane Sessengeon behind the lone forward, which will hopefully be Saido Berahino. I'd expect with Everton's style of play, West Brom will look to remain compact at the back with Mulumbu and Yacob breaking up play in the middle of the park, which will form the base for some quick, counter-attacking football.

Who are the danger men we need to be keeping an eye on?

Saido Berahino if he is given a start, Morgan Amalfitano is a technically-gifted player with a fantastic cross but it's fair to say he blows hot and cold. West Brom's standout performer this season has been right back Billy Jones, who likes to bomb down the right wing in a similar way to Coleman and Baines.

Roberto Martinez has received high praise from numerous figures in the game. What do you expect to see from us, and who are the men you need to pay close attention to?

Martinez has impressed me massively at Everton, I didn't really buy into the hype surrounding him when he was at Wigan but he has so far more than proved my doubts wrong. I expect to see Everton have a lot of the ball, with plenty of attacks down our wings. I rate Seamus Coleman very highly and have done for a while, Gareth Barry will get a hearty round of boos from the Baggies faithful but he seems to be doing a great job at Everton. And of course Lukaku, who will no doubt receive a tremendous reception, although I fear we won't be too happy to see him back come the end of the game. I am disappointed that I won't get to see Ross Barkley play, he has been very impressive this season.

Finally, give us your prediction for the game.

Can't see Albion winning but with the new head coach at the helm, I'm going to go for an entertaining 2-2 draw that doesn't really help either team! Hope your travelling fans have a safe trip and enjoy the game, not too much hopefully!

What do you think? Comments below....