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Saturday, 16 August 2014, 15:00

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Plus points for Albion despite defeat

West Brom FanZoner Joseph Chapman has praise for Shane Long, Billy Jones and Chris Brunt, despite the defeat by Arsenal on Saturday.

Last Updated: 09/04/13 at 20:15 Post Comment

Shane Long: Battles with Koscielny on Saturday

Shane Long: Battles with Koscielny on Saturday

It proved to be quite a frustrating afternoon on Saturday as Albion entertained Arsenal, in more ways than one.

You know what Arsene Wenger's sides bring to the table - a style of play involving plenty of possession and flair, as well as a serious attacking threat.

However, they were able to take the lead at the interval without really having to do too much, Tomas Rosicky's point-blank bullet header the difference.

As regards to the selection of the team and strategy, Steve Clarke more or less went with what I personally would have favoured. I was all for reverting back to our 4-5-1 formation (or 4-2-3-1 to be more specific) and other than perhaps Marc-Antoine Fortune for Jerome Thomas, the starting XI I was in agreement with.

Against the general consensus, I would have included the now almost certain exiting winger Peter Odemwingie in the squad. The Nigerian had been our heaviest threat against West Ham at the Boleyn Ground.

From the outside looking in, Romelu Lukaku has been our main man this season, and he has rightly claimed the plaudits for his, at times, electric performances. There were question marks, therefore, as to why he found himself on the bench come 3pm on Saturday. But if you observed closely both trips to the Britannia Stadium and Upton Park, you would agree he wasn't at his sharpest. The story in the news regarding his father may also be a contributing factor, and so Shane Long was given the chance to recapture his early-season form as the lone man.

Aside from the Claudio Yacob header off the line (the Argentinian once again instrumental), there weren't really too many chances for the Baggies fans to reflect on over their cup of tea at the break, and sadly within five minutes of the restart we were to make it all the more difficult for ourselves.

Rosicky was very good at the weekend. Similarly to Carroll for West Ham the week before, the one player in Albion's opposing team that made their side tick. The amount of space and time he was given, therefore to have not one but two efforts on goal was beyond belief.

That was a real setback, because while the score stays at 0-1, the Baggies always had a chance. Then Clarke made the double substitution which really got the ball rolling for the hosts.

Long played well on Saturday, when you consider the service provided, and deserved his assist (if you can call it that!) to James Morrison's, ah, fortunate penalty conversion. However, Lukaku - and most Albion fans who attended the game - will still be having nightmares as to how he missed the chance presented to him. You could say had it had fallen to him on his favoured left side he would have finished it with aplomb, but almost the whole Birmingham Road End were preparing to celebrate an equaliser a split second before nevertheless.

The absence of Mulumbu in the first half was evident, with Cazorla (roundly booed for his antics in the reverse fixture), Rosicky and Arteta allowed to indulge in their short passing routine. I will stick my neck out and say Chris Brunt had a decent game, against seemingly the majority of the Albion faithful, and I continue to think he plays a better role in the centre of midfield, where his lack of pace isn't (as much of) an issue.

One final shout-out must go to the ever-improving Billy Jones, who deservedly received the sponsor's man-of-the-match award. While I hope Steven Reid continues to improve his fitness, the former Preston defender should now be considered, in my opinion, our primary right back. He was superb on Saturday, especially going forward.

With now a fortnight until our next match, and our future opponents Newcastle United entertaining Paolo Di Canio-inspired rivals Sunderland and Benfica in the next week, we'll all be hoping our boys are fully prepared for the visit of the Toon Army.

By Joseph Chapman, FanZone's West Brom blogger. Follow him on Twitter at @jcwba16 - and don't forget to follow @FanZone too!

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