Slaven Bilic admits that he’s witnessed aspects of West Brom’s friendlies that make him feel as though he’s watching a training session – and he wants his Albion players to take advantage of such lulls.
Players have been back in training for a number of weeks, but things have been like a pre-season training camp because of the lack of competitive action the players have suffered from in recent months.
Albion have played both Aston Villa and Manchester United in the last ten days, in order to help the squad build up their match fitness levels and get the competitive juices flowing again.
Bilic, though, has still spotted what he referred to as ‘silly things’ within those matches, and while he wants his players to avoid repeating such scenarios when Blues visit The Hawthorns on Saturday, he equally hopes Albion can take advantage of such weaknesses that their rivals may reveal.
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“It can’t be that compact. You can’t be that focused,” Bilic explained. “You can’t run away from the fact it looks more like training than like a game. Even in our game against Man United, you have a few situations that happens in training but they don’t happen in a game, you don’t do those things in a game. But you can’t help it.
“That is why I told the guys you have to count on that when the opponent has the ball that they are going to do those silly things, but we have no room for that.
“We have to help each other and be totally focused in these nine games and it is also a big part of my job and my staff’s job to make the players remember that all the time. Not to be afraid, but to be reliable and responsible on the pitch.”
Generally speaking, though, Bilic feels Albion are ready to go.
He was impressed with the way the players returned to full training after such a lay-off during lock-down; they came through that motivational challenge and have hit the ground running with a ball back at their feet.
Sitting in second place, there’s work still to do. While Albion enjoy a cushion of six points to Fulham, they’ve certainly not shaken the Cottagers off just yet.
“I can say we’re ready. Of course, like at the start of a new season, it’s different – there is the pressure of the competitive games,” Bilic added.
“We are confident and we are ready for the restart.”