by Scott Sayers
After a fairly unpredictable start to the Premier League this season, the table itself makes for some unusual reading, although obviously this won’t provide a true reflection of the standings until after around a dozen games. However, of all the teams exceeding expectations, West Bromwich Albion can feel pleased with their work after negotiating three potentially difficult fixtures with some aplomb. This was highlighted after last weekend’s game against Everton, themselves having had an unusually solid start to the season, where West Brom picked up their second home win. That it was against the Toffees was perhaps more significant than either of their results against Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur respectively.
There are few more lauded managers in English football than David Moyes, and understandably so. However, in recent years Everton can certainly lay claim to having had some preferable media treatment and Moyes himself is often talked of as Sir Alex Ferguson’s heir apparent. Indeed, it only took commentators until midway through the first half of Everton’s opening game against Manchester United before they mentioned that he had worked wonders under “difficult financial circumstances”. Looking at the Merseyside club’s recent delves into the transfer market, Moyes must be given plaudits for making Everton £65 million in player sales between season 09/10 and 12/13. This was in no small part due to great business in getting good (nigh on incredible) fees for Mikel Arteta, Jack Rodwell and Julien Lescott. Yet, between the same period Moyes was able to spend over £43 million of that on new signings and whilst hardly a king’s ransom in today’s terms, in comparison to the Baggies’ spend of just over £24 million in the same period it’s a chunky sum. Granted, the Albion failed to make anywhere near as much as Everton in selling their star players, it does appear that contrary to popular opinion, Moyes has had carte blanche to do as he pleases with much of the money he brings in.
Have a look back at any pre-season predictions and West Brom feature prominently amongst relegation contenders (as do Swansea!) and Steve Clarke was a frontrunner in the sack race. Whilst it must be stressed that we’re only three games into the 2012/13 season, Steve Clarke has shown an aptitude for the ‘hot seat’ that many were unsure he had. It’s therefore been somewhat disappointing that his side seem to have flown underneath the radar, even after another merited victory against a more ‘fashionable’ team. From back to front West Brom have looked impressive, been clinical when the opposition have failed to be and certainly have something of Newcastle 2011/12 about them. Much was made of Marouane Fellaini’s aerial domination against Manchester United but Claudio Yacob (a free transfer) and man-of-the-match Jonas Olsson kept the £15 million man quiet. Peter Odemwingie linked well with Shane Long, surely leaving Clarke with a dilemma as to whether Romelu Lukaku can get back in the side. Their starting XI on Saturday cost a combined £15 million whereas Everton’s XI were closer to 50. Time will tell if they can continue this form into the Autumn and this may come back to haunt me when the Baggies are languishing in above the trapdoor by Christmas. As the aforementioned Odemwingie said post-match about his new gaffer, “He doesn’t look like he’s just starting” and Steve Clarke is one Scotsman who’ll be quite happy to continue to be underestimated.