The Local Lowdown: West Bromwich Albion

2023-24/Matchdays/202040512 West Brom vs Southampton - Play-off SF/MW_WBA_Southampton_Playoffs_147_y7sxyk

We asked opposition expert Joseph Chapman, West Bromwich Albion writer for Birmingham Live, to preview Friday's decisive second leg from the visitors’ point of view...

It’s all to play for after a goalless first leg. What was the feeling from the West Brom side on the result and how the game played out?

Depends on who you ask! There were a number of fans who understandably went into the first leg of the belief that Albion would have to take a lead to St Mary's. Others would have been satisfied that the tie remains in the balance and that Albion still have a fighting chance.

Southampton are clearly favourites but I was pretty heartened by what I saw – as has been the case so often this season with Albion, though, the quality of finishing was lacking. If Grady Diangana scores one of his openings, then it's a different story. Equally, if Ross Stewart finds the corner and not Alex Palmer's leg, the game could've been up by now.

How would you gauge the mood now compared to a week ago?

Nerves are natural if you're a supporter of a club in the play-offs. There is so much at stake. It's what your club have worked so hard all season to achieve – a crack at promotion. It can be euphoric or painful – there's not much middle ground. There's so much riding on this game, and these play-offs, for Albion, but Carlos Corberán wants his players to embrace the pressure of a big game. It's what you're in the sport for.

How would you assess West Brom’s season as a whole, and the job Carlos Corberán has done?

A good one. Albion have a lot of decent Championship players on their books, but they don't possess the depth nor the resources of the three clubs who dropped down from the Premier League. The quality of the sides meant that the top of the Championship was as strong as it's been for a while. Then you have Ipswich, who were the ultimate dark horses.

For Corberán to guide Albion to fifth, working within financial constraints which made recruitment difficult while eking out of the existing squad what he could, I think he will be able to reflect on a job well done this summer. Corberán, though, is perhaps the kind of man who won't see it that way unless they overcome the odds and achieve promotion from here.

What’s their success been built on, and who have been the standout performers?

Albion have been defensively excellent for the most part this season. Corberán structures his teams very soundly. Every player on the pitch knows their role and their responsibility within the unit. It's been a pretty cohesive side for the most part – Corberán welcomed loanees Alex Mowatt and Cédric Kipré back into the squad last summer and both have been fixtures in the side. They'd be one and two in running for Player of the Year.

Alex Palmer in goal won the Championship's Golden Glove award and there were only two sides who conceded fewer goals than them all season. Their struggles have been more in the final third – they don't have an Adam Armstrong-esque striker as they have done in recent years with the likes of Jay Rodriguez and Dwight Gayle.

How did Albion finish the regular season, in terms of their recent form?

Mixed bag. Their final away game ended in a 3-0 defeat, while their final home game ended in a 3-0 win. I think, even more so than Southampton, that Albion's end game this season has been play-offs at best. They've been in the top six since November and retaining that spot has been the priority. They did slip up towards the end of the campaign but got themselves over the line.

I thought, all in all, it was a decent showing against Southampton. They were more like their sturdy selves and that will hopefully bode well for the second leg.

How do you see the Baggies approaching the second leg, and who reaches Wembley?

They were out of the blocks fast on Sunday, with The Hawthorns behind them. I thought even at that time that might've been when they needed to score, knowing Southampton would likely have a spell of domination of their own.

I'm interested by how they approach Friday. Allowing Saints to dictate could be a dangerous game as we know how strong they are with the ball. Albion were excellent in defeat at Leicester fairly recently, another side who like to dominate their opponents – there could be parallels in how Corberán sets them up and looks to exploit any Saints weaknesses.

Viewing this page on a mobile device? Download the Saints app for all the latest news, feature videos and interactive content to get you closer to the action!

Open the Saints app today!