West Brom enjoyed a brilliant start to the 2012/13 season, emerging as the surprise package in the Premier League. If they had repeated their halfway point haul after Christmas then the Baggies would have finished in an improbable sixth spot but instead Steve Clarke was not able to maintain that stunning form in 2013.
In part, that was a product of having done the hard work early on - reaching 33 points by Boxing Day ensured the first goal of Premier League survival was achieved before the decorations were down. But there was also the problem of the midfield partnership between Claudio Yacob and Youssouf Mulumbu being broken up.
Yacob had an instant impact following his arrival from Argentina but a combination of injury, suspension and the Africa Cup of Nations ensured that Clarke was not able to pair his key midfield duo from the opening day of December until the middle of February - resulting in momentum being lost.
|Tackles won - PL 2012/13|
|Claudio Yacob||West Brom||90|
The statistical significance of Yacob is shown by the statistic that only Morgan Schneiderlin of Southampton won more tackles than the former Racing midfielder in 2012/13. He was a key man in an otherwise less than combative West Brom side and Clarke will be anxious to see an improvement in the statistic that indicates his side managed far fewer interceptions than any other Premier League team last time out.
|Interceptions - PL 2012/13|
As well as becoming a tougher team to play against, Albion will also need to replace the goals of Romelu Lukaku in the forthcoming season. The acquisition of Nicolas Anelka will go some way to ensuring that is unlikely to spell doom for Clarke's men but, at the other end of the pitch, the new contract agreed with Gareth McAuley could prove just as significant.
Jonas Olsson was previously perceived as the star man in the Baggies defence but the Swede was outperformed by McAuley in 2012/13 and that is shown by the statistic that reveals the Northern Ireland international made more headed clearances than all but two top-flight players last season. If the Olsson and McAuley partnership and the pairing of Yacob and Mulumbu remain intact for the bulk of the 2013/13 campaign then there is cause for more optimism in the Black Country.
|Headed clearances - PL 2012/13|
|Gareth McAuley||West Brom||201|