Claudio Yacob the lone bright for West Brom in Southampton loss
West Brom put in one of their worst performances for some time as they lost 3-0 to Southampton at St Mary's, just three days after putting in one of their best performances under Tony Pulis when drawing 2-2 with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
The two performances couldn't have been more different. At Chelsea, West Brom were energetic, passed the ball well and committed plenty of bodies forward. Against Southampton, they looked tired; their retention of the ball was shocking and the ineffectiveness of Pulis' strikers to hold the ball up meant that getting bodies forward were impossible.
West Brom seemed to struggle with Southampton's set-up of three centre-backs and two wing-backs. Pulis attempted to match this set-up after going a goal down, but this only made things worse for WBA. Moving Stephane Sessegnon from a wide position to a more central role simply meant that West Brom lost their one counterattacking outlet, and the ball just kept coming back at the defence.
To make matters worse, captain Darren Fletcher had to be substituted at half-time with a knee injury. Fletcher has been in good form as of late, including an inspirational display against Chelsea, and he is vital to the way West Brom play. The skipper is Pulis' voice on the field, constantly organising the team, while his energy at the heart of midfield often drives West Brom forward when they attack.
With James Morrison out for up to two months, West Brom are beginning to look short of options in the middle of the park, which may force their hand in the transfer market ahead of a crucial run of fixtures.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Boaz Myhill, 5 -- Could have done better for Southampton's opener. Had little chance with Southampton's other two goals. Will be looking over his shoulder nervously with Ben Foster back at full fitness.
DF Craig Dawson, 4 -- Struggled against Southampton's wing-backs throughout the first half, didn't seem to know who to mark and gave away the penalty for the second goal. Distribution was poor when moved to centre-back in the second half.
DF Gareth McAuley, 6 -- The best of West Brom's four centre-backs. Generally dealt well with Shane Long in a physical battle; a strong presence in the air.
DF Jonas Olsson, 5 -- Struggled to cope with the pace of Long and Sadio Mane, another whose distribution left much to be desired. Taken off at half-time as Pulis changed to three at the back.
DF Jonny Evans, 6 -- Did fine defensively at left-back, but couldn't provide support going forward. Looked far more comfortable at the centre of defence in the second half. Needs to be returned to his best position.
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MF Stephane Sessegnon, 5 -- Outstanding in recent weeks but quiet against Southampton. Saw little of the ball because of the forwards' poor hold-up play, but wasted a couple of promising positions with poor shooting and decision-making.
MF Craig Gardner, 5 -- After a good performance against Chelsea, Gardner was anonymous for long periods. Used the ball smartly without causing any problems. Delivery was poor from out wide in the second half.
MF Darren Fletcher, 5 -- Didn't get going against a strong Southampton midfield. A few sloppy moments in possession. Taken off at half-time because of injury, Pulis will hope it isn't too serious.
MF Claudio Yacob, 7 -- West Brom's stand-out performer. Was sound positionally, making several vital interceptions and tackles to break-up play.
MF James McClean, 6 -- Another energetic performance from the wide man, who supported Evans well defensively, including one outstanding clearance. Was direct going forward, but delivery lacked quality.
FWD Victor Anichebe, 4 -- After a man of the match performance in his last appearance against Newcastle, Anichebe was back to his frustrating self. Lacked mobility, movement and hold-up play was poor.
MF Chris Brunt, 5 -- On at half-time. Used in the centre of midfield, but caught in two minds between attacking and defending. Needs to be restored to left-back as he offers West Brom another option going forward.
FW Salomon Rondon, 5 -- Replaced Olsson at half-time. Like Anichebe, his hold-up play was poor, with the two of them getting in each other's way too often. Lacked his usual work ethic. Looks short of confidence.
FW Saido Berahino, 5 -- On for Sessegnon in the 63rd minute. Played behind the two strikers, but struggled to adapt. If he is to stay at West Brom, Berahino needs to start being used in his best position for the sake of both the player and the team.
Matthew Evans is a lifelong West Brom fan and season-ticket holder. You can follow him on Twitter @MattEvansWBA.