Jason Roberts knows all about West Brom, having spent four years at the Baggies from 2000-2004. Here, the former striker - now a football pundit with BBC Sport - gives the lowdown on Tony Pulis' men ahead of their visit to Goodison this afternoon.
NOT JUST DEFENSIVELY SOUND
It’s a big game for both teams. West Brom have had an unbelievable season so far. The perception around them is not close to reality. They are always going to be defensively solid – only 34 goals conceded – which is what you’d expect from a Tony Pulis side.
But going forward they are much better than what people give them credit for – 36 goals scored – although they are coming up against a really good Everton team.
Pulis has given them more freedom to express themselves. He’s famous for his defensive stability but Nadir Chadli and Matt Phillips have added that attacking edge, and James Morrison has been given more of an opportunity to join the front men. Salomon Rondon is an excellent target man. When you’re playing for a team like West Brom you’re not going to get a hatful of chances so you have to be clinical and he has been good in that regard.
Despite that attacking talent, West Brom's joint-top scorer this season is centre-back Gareth McAuley. It comes down to Tony Pulis’ defensive organisation. We always know that West Brom are going to threaten from set pieces. They’ll be disappointed from their result against Crystal Palace last weekend and they’ll be looking for a reaction. To get that, yes they’ll need set pieces, but will need more from their attacking players.
The temptation for a team like West Brom may be to get to a certain point and then take your foot off the gas but I don’t see Pulis allowing that to happen. With them in eighth, the expectation now is for them to do a little bit more. This is a huge test for them because Everton are a powerful side, especially at home. They’ll need to show a bit more flair going forward.
FORMER BAGGIES LOANEE COULD BE KEY
Romelu Lukaku is one of my favourite players in the Premier League – there’s not many like him. Big, physical, pace to stretch the line and has got the technique to come short.
He’s left-footed but he showed against Tottenham that he can finish with his right. He’s good in the air – I think he’s as good as it gets. There are areas of his game he can improve on but I see that as a positive. At Everton there is a chance for him to build something. I think he understands that. He’s absolutely at the right Club and with him, Koeman and the young players there, Everton are progressing.
I’ve seen him progress, not just as a striker but as a player. He adds much more to his game now, he’s more able to link up play, which comes with time. You add the physical attributes and the skills set he has and he is at an exciting Club. This squad is as good as Everton have had.
KOEMAN'S DOING A TOP JOB
I’ve been hugely impressed with his work - what he did at Southampton, what he did in Holland, and now with Everton. His philosophy and tactical approach is very clever.
It hasn’t automatically gone exactly as he had planned at the start but he would be as happy as he could be with how things are going.
He’s got Williams’ leadership, Schneiderlin signing in January. Davies coming into the side – no-one expected him to have the impact he has in the first team – and with Ross Barkley, Koeman has challenged him to bring something different to his game and we’re seeing the benefits of that.
Everton are hugely exciting and it stems from the manager. It's going to be a big game today but Everton's extra class can prove the difference.