West Bromwich Albion have enjoyed an encouraging start to the season under Slaven Bilic, with the Baggies entering the international break sitting top of the Championship, having collected 22 points from their first eleven matches.
Bilic’s side secured an impressive 4-2 win against Cardiff City at the Hawthorns in their final match before the international break, and that result saw the Baggies produce an excellent response to their first defeat of the season suffered at promotion rivals Leeds United.
West Brom have managed to recover well from the frustration of missing out on promotion to the Premier League last season, with the Baggies losing in the play-off semi-finals to eventual winners Aston Villa, and Bilic has ensured there has been no hangover whilst integrating his new signings.
However, there have been a few signs of some issues for Bilic’s side in the opening months of the campaign, and the former West Ham United manager will be mulling these over during the international break.
Here, we take a look at three of the questions and issues that Bilic will be considering during the international break…
How to get West Brom starting games better?
Despite managing to pick up six wins in their opening eleven Championship matches and suffering just a single defeat, West Brom have experienced difficulty starting their games on the front foot, often finding themselves conceding the first goal and then needing to turn the game around.
West Brom have shown some signs of improvement in that regard in their last three games, managing to take the lead in wins at Queens Park Rangers and Cardiff, but Bilic’s side have conceded the opening goal in eight of their opening eleven matches – and despite managing to recover to take points in seven of those it will be a concern to the Baggies if that trend continues.
Bilic will be hoping that West Brom’s wins against QPR and Cardiff can be looked on as a blueprint for how to get his side starting games better, and he will be hoping not to have to turn to his bench so often to turn games around in the coming weeks.
How to get the best out of Charlie Austin?
West Brom supporters would have been enthused by the club managing to bring in Charlie Austin from Southampton in the summer transfer window, with the striker a proven scorer in the Championship and capable of firing in the 15 to 20 goals needed to help a side earn promotion to the Premier League.
However, so far Austin has struggled to get on the score sheet, with the 30-year-old failing to score in his first six league appearances for West Brom, suffering the frustration of missing a few good opportunities to open his Championship account for the club.
Against Cardiff, though, Austin finally registered his first league goal of the season with a typical cool finish to put the Baggies 3-0 in front, and that goal brought the loudest cheer from the home supporters inside the Hawthorns. The question for Bilic will now be whether he can help the striker go on a consistent run of form.
How to get West Brom to record more clean sheets?
One of West Brom main issues last season was their defence, which saw the Baggies concede 62 goals in their 46 matches, which was the joint most out of any of the sides to finish in the division’s top half.
That issue has somewhat followed them into this campaign, with Bilic’s side so far recording just one clean sheet in eleven games in their 2-0 win at QPR, whilst also conceding 13 goals which is the joint most out of any side currently in the division’s top eight.
Bilic will need to figure out how best to tighten up his defence and allow the Baggies to absorb pressure from their opponents without conceding goals, and West Brom will need to find a way of offering more protection to the defence at times during games.