West Bromwich Albion 2016 Review: Spoilers, set-pieces and...attacking football?

West Bromwich Albion 2016 Review: Spoilers, set-pieces and...attacking football?

The Baggies year has evolved from being a well drilled defensive unit, into finally throwing the offensive shackles to one side.

Neil Leverett

As years go in a standard Premier League campaign, for West Bromwich Albion, 2016 has been a significant departure from their stereotypical pugnacious brand of play - for the time being at least.

Finishing in 14th spot last term, having assured another season in the top flight, the wheels rather fell of the Baggies bandwagon in the final weeks of the season, failing to win any of their last nine games - losing four.

There still remained time however to put a permanent mark on the 2015/16 campaign, even if it was not to Tony Pulis' own profit.

Dawson single-handedly ended Spurs' title tilt

Whilst the campaign was winding down for West Brom their opponents on a barmy North London evening in April, hosts Spurs had to win to keep the pressure on Leicester City, with an inaugural Premier League crown within sight.

The evening was dominated by Baggies defender Craig Dawson. With the 25 year-old having already notched a trio of top-flight goals last term, it was his contribution at both ends of the pitch that proved to be the undoing of Mauricio Pochettino's men.

When Dawson was the fall guy in a penalty area melee, the hosts took the lead, as a crucial three points looked on the cards.

As West Brom had shown on more than one occasion away from home last term however, it was Dawson who this time rose and beat Hugo Lloris to the punch - literally - to thump home into the roof of the Spurs net, with 17 minutes to play.

As the final whistle blew at White Hart Lane that evening, The Lily Whites knew their chance of glory had gone. 

Goals continue to flow from set-pieces

Whilst it was Dawson, who provided the set-piece menace last term, Gareth McAuley has again taken up the mantle for West Brom this season.

The Northern Irishman has netted three time before the turn of the year already. The addition of winger Matt Phillips has been a shrewd piece of business by Tony Pulis, but It is not only the former Ipswich Town man who has profitted.

Salomon Rondon has already amassed seven league goals - just two away from his tally of last season. Phillips' six assists this season have been an instrumental part of that.

Brunt return has shorn Baggies shackles

Not only the addition of Phillips had begun to pay huge dividends for West Brom, the return of Chris Brunt has seen a side to the West Midlanders' play that few could have envisaged.

21 goals in 18 games so far this term, are the same figures reached for the period last season between late November and the end of the campaign in May, as Tony Pulis' men have discovered an almost cavallier element to their game.

The impressive form of Allan Nyom has allowed Northern Irishman man Brunt to switch to a more attacking role on the wing, where distribution has been key to his side.   

With a rotational quartet of Phillips, Brunt, James Morrison and Nacer Chadli, Rondon has benefitted from greater service, simply bereft of last term.

As the calendar ticks over into a new year, West Brom sit ninth in the Premier League table. Despite this however, just nine points separate them and the bottom three. 

Having impressed in during the first part of this campaign, the task now is to consolidate and finish inside the top half at least. Given the rather bipolar nature of the English top-flight - where form is temporary - 2017 could yet bring hidden rewards for Tony Pulis' men.