Southampton 0 – West Brom 0
In a game of not much at all happening, the highlight for West Brom fans appeared to be the final whistle, which deposited a second point into their team’s tally for the season. Although the game proved to promise more than just one point for West Brom at times, Irvine and Co would have gratefully accepted a draw away from home to Southampton before kick off, so from that perspective, the match was a success.
Irvine opted for a squad identical to last week’s home draw against Sunderland, an understandable move, considering the promise his side exhibited in that match (despite conceding an unlucky late goal). Although Southampton’s team isn’t that similar to that under Pochettino last season, their squad held many threats to the West Brom goal, such as Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle.
The pre-match aspirations of a draw or better in this game looked safe for long periods of the game, the first fifteen minutes of the game being swayed in favour of both sides back and forth, bearing no real chances. While Pelle was immobile and clumsy at one end, Anichebe was almost non existent up front, pitching in with one flick wide of Forster’s goal but nothing else.
Southampton lone striker Pelle’s frustration followed him from the Liverpool game, and soon the Italian took out this frustration on West Brom’s most impressive summer signing thus far, Sebastian Pocognoli. With a clip to the ankle of the left back, Pelle made Baggies fans collectively grimace at the prospect of having a man off injured so early into the game. Thankfully, the Belgian Pocognoli limped back on and continued his fine form at wing back for the remainder of the match.
He was often more threatening in the final third than Chris Brunt, who for a wide man and captain, failed to put in many convincing crosses and inspire his side – this lack of calm leadership evidenced by a yellow card for kicking the ball away late on in the first half.
West Brom’s defence showed lesser signs of weakness this week than last, but it’s hard to tell whether this should be credited to Irvine or Southampton’s lack of attacking threat. Tadic did provide for Pelle – often drifting out wide to do so – but Pelle couldn’t get his foot or head (or anything of note) on the majority of crosses.
A quick glance at the team sheet before the game would make it obvious that the focal point of the game would be the midfield battle between West Brom and Southampton’s central men. Victor Wanyama and Youssouf Mulumbu both play similar games, as strong holding midfielders with a large physical presence, as do James Ward-Prowse and Craig Gardner (sharing a knack for playing accurate final balls and shooting from range).
As with the last game, Gardner was impressive, keeping Fraser Forster in the Southampton goal on his toes, but the central spotlight today fell on Mulumbu, who cleaned up the scraps left by Craig Dawson and Jonas Olsson at the back and got forward at a surprising but not dangerous rate.
When Victor Anichebe hobbled off in the 52nd minute, the stadium cheered to mark the occasion: the first appearance of record signing Brown Ideye in a navy and white shirt. West Brom fans would be right to expect something from the big Nigerian, and despite having no experience in the English game, nearly set off his goal tally within twenty minutes with a deft touch past Fonte, but found himself pounced upon by Forster. Although he didn’t quite get the breakthrough he needed, Ideye has shown he could be worth the price tag should he get himself into the box as much as he did today.
A point will do for today, but Irvine does need to get himself a win soon or be destined for a season of mediocre results.