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Chelsea vs. West Brom, Premier League: Opposition Analysis

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The Blues welcome an in-form Baggies team to Stamford Bridge on Sunday. They have nothing to fear besides bone-shattering tackles, flying elbows and generally horrible football.

Hull City v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

The Season So Far

West Brom’s 2016-17 seemed set to be just as painful as any other campaign overseen by T*ny P*l*s. Miserable football in attack, frequent ultra-violence in defence, inevitable lower-mid-table safety/mediocrity (delete as applicable depending on personal taste). It all seemed so predictable, so passé, so uninteresting.

The Baggies fans’ only hope was that The Devil P*l*s upset new owner Guochuan Lai by pulling his favourite party trick and trying to pocket some of the Chinese’s fortune by exploiting the darker side of the transfer market. Satan P*l*s was already on thin ice, by all accounts, having come close to walking away during the summer over his board’s refusal to sell actual, talented footballer Saido Berahino and allow the manager more money to embezzle spend on six-foot-five, seventeen-stone, single-digit-IQ hoofball thugs.

Then, out of nowhere, West Brom turned into a football team. One can only speculate that the players are now openly disobeying their evil overlord manager, but the occasional spells of free-flowing football, inventiveness in attack and general likeability strongly indicate that Lucifer P*l*s has lost the dressing room. Perhaps distracted by his recent humiliation in the courts and subsequent financial difficulties, the uniquely despicable coach is clearly not exerting the authority he once was. Either way, the lunatics are running the asylum.

Four-goal hauls against (the admittedly abysmal) West Ham and Burnley were followed by three against Watford last weekend, and although the fixture list has been kind and there are still deplorable traces of P*l*sian football stinking out the Hawthorns, things are certainly looking a damn sight rosier for the West Brom faithful at the moment.

The Season Ahead

Presumably Beelzebub P*l*s will put a stop to all this fun in due course. A bloody and merciless purge in January shouldn’t surprise anyone, with eye-catching and productive talents like Matt Phillips, Nacer Chadli and Salomón Rondón all playing far too pleasingly to ever last too long in a team based entirely on the concept of pure evil.

Under the resurgent authoritarian regime, all attacking will be banned and anyone under the height of 1.90m will be sold, or shot by a firing squad and ground up into chicken feed. West Brom’s fans will go back to craving the halcyon days of No Fear November and enduring the endless misery of their maniacal dictator’s horrifying philosophy. Said maniacal dictator will once again dip his hand into the till and help himself to the club’s money. Dark days lie ahead, make no mistake.

Tactics

Michael Owen, unofficially (for now) the World’s Beigest Man, once described He Who Must Not Be Named P*l*s’ training as “boring” and “mind-numbing”. One can only imagine how bad things must have gotten for a man of Owen’s unequivocal dullness to feel compelled to publicly declare something to be indescribably dismal.

Sadly for Owen and for the rest of the human race, the Dark Lord’s P*l*s’ soul-destroying methods appear to be effective. As always, West Brom’s main focus is on keeping a good defensive shape and giving their opponents as little time and space near their goal as possible. They have become competent enough at it to avoid so much as flirting with relegation.

The opposition’s space is minimised by keeping all four defenders back and making sure the defensive midfielders – usually two, sometimes three – sit deep and protect the back four. With none of the defenders obliged to attack or provide width, West Brom have tended to use four tall centre-backs and their task is very simple: keep their shape, protect the box and punt the ball as far as possible whenever it arrives at their feet. For some reason Allan Nyom, an out-and-out full-back, has been used at left-back so far this season – one assumes this is due to some kind of administrative error.

Their attacking is mostly done via set plays but they have been surprisingly good on the counter-attack of late, with the pace, power and trickery of Phillips, Chadli and Rondón useful tools on the break. As previously stated, this tactic is presumably being used in open revolt against the Evil One P*l*s.

Strengths

This column is morally obliged to deny that any T*ny P*l*s team can possibly have strengths.

However, they’re undeniably amazing at attacking corners.

God, I feel dirty.

Weaknesses

Such extreme focus on the defensive aspect of the game tends to limit attacking output somewhat – to put it politely. The Evil Doer’s P*l*s’ Stoke side was, among other things, renowned for its toothlessness up front, and this West Brom side was no different until a few weeks ago. Even now, only five teams have taken fewer shots this season and only six have hit the target less. Their opponents consistently outshoot them, but the deepness and compactness of the defence generally limits them to low-quality chances.

The foundation of their success comes down to three things, all of which are unsustainable: first, 40.8% of their shots on target this season have been goals, the second highest figure in the league; second, a 73.0% save rate, the third highest in the league; thirdly, the fixture list, which can’t allow them easy wins against Leicester, Burnley Hull and Watford every week.

Also, their manager is T*ny P*l*s, possibly the most evil and hateful human being ever to have lived.

Likely XIs

West Brom are sweating on the fitness of Gareth McAuley. Never short of towering centre-backs, The Prince of Darkness P*l*s has Jonas Olsson on standby should he be needed. Nacer Chadli is also expected to come back into the team, while James Morrison is in contention.

As for Chelsea, Willian might take Pedro’s place and Diego Costa has a knock (as usual). There shouldn’t be any surprises.

Prediction

Chelsea are overwhelming favourites here and should be aiming to win by two or three. That said, if West Brom manage to dig in and frustrate Eden Hazard and company, it could be a long afternoon for the Blues.