Pre-season can be a strange time for a football club when the manager has only recently been appointed, as the new boss juggles the need to get his new charges fit with assessing their abilities and finding out exactly what makes them tick.
Steve Clarke is just finding that out. The new West Bromwich Albion boss is not only new to his job but also fresh to front line management, and as such the entire club is currently on a collective learning curve.
The Scot certainly has plenty of experience of top flight pre-season schedules – as assistant manager at Chelsea under Jose Mourinho, Clarke will have learnt meticulous planning down to a fine art – but it is a different story when you are the one in the hot seat.
The Danish Superliga is already underway, which puts West Brom, as they were in their match against mid-season Malmo, at a huge fitness disadvantage.
Clarke admitted yesterday that he is going to ‘experiment’ with his line-ups during West Brom’s summer of warm-up matches as he gets to grips with a pattern of play that suits the players at his disposal: this will pay dividends in the long run for the Baggies, but it may mean that in the short term results and performances remain indifferent until manager and staff become more acquainted.
It helps Clarke that he has a settled squad that has a nucleus of very good players, but as he adjusts I expect West Brom to be on the end of a few reverses. That was the case in Clarke’s first match, a 1-0 loss to Malmo of Sweden (although the Baggies were a touch unfortunate to lose) and could well be the case again when Clarke takes his squad to Denmark to face Copenhagen.
West Brom are priced up at 37/20 to get a first win under the former West Ham assistant, with the draw at 11/5 and the hosts quoted as 5/4 favourites and it is with Copenhagen that I am siding with on this one.
The Danish Superliga is already underway, which puts West Brom, as they were in their match against mid-season Malmo, at a huge fitness disadvantage. Not only that, but new Copenhagen coach Ariel Jacobs has seen his side get off to a good start – four points from six leave his side second in the fledgling table – but he will see this match against Premier League opposition as more than just an inconvenience as the domestic season starts.
Byens Hold have a Champions League qualifier against Club Bruges on the horizon and Jacobs will want his players to be as fit as possible for the crucial encounter so early in the year. Copenhagen’s home form is excellent, too: the Danes have won ten of their last 12 matches at Parken, drawing the other two, and a West Brom side lacking in match sharpness will find it tough going.
And with Clarke willing to forgo results at this stage in exchange for tinkering with his team as he learns about his squad, I’d rather be on the 5/4 that it is two defeats from two for Clarke than any other bet.
Recommended bet: Copenhagen to beat West Brom @ 5/4
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