Tony Pulis isn’t doing himself any favours, is he? Last weekend’s abysmal performance away at Newcastle was the final straw for many a Baggies fan with a good proportion of the Albion faithful calling for his head afterwards.
It’s hard to sympathise with the 58-yaer-old if you take into consideration Saturday’s events. Newcastle were sitting 18th in the league before kick-off and were struggling to patch a back four together due to an influx of injuries. An opportunity to exploit you would think.
But no. Pulis put out arguably his most defensive starting XI since he took over at the club. The back four consisted of four centre-backs and out of a midfield five, four were central midfielders completely void of any real pace or creativity. All of the individuals that possess those skills were sat on the bench and the game played out exactly as the fans predicted. If it wasn’t for some brilliant goalkeeping from Ben Foster, we could have easily lost the game five or six-nil. We didn’t even register a single shot on target, not for the first time this season.
Now, what’s frustrating me more than anything is Pulis’ downright stubbornness to not change things around. If something isn’t working you change it, you try something new. Formation, starting line-up, tactics, something to stop the rot and get the team scoring goals and, more importantly, winning again. Pulis can’t use the excuse ‘we haven’t the players’ because we have, it’s just for some reason he’s unwilling to give them a chance.
I mean, just imagine a front four of McManaman, Sessegnon, McClean and Berahino, or Sessegnon, Pritchard, McClean and Rondon, or McManaman, Berahino, Pritchard and Rondon. You get the point I’m trying to make. There are options there so why on earth isn’t he trying something new? We are struggling to test opposition goalkeepers once in 90 minutes of football! What more evidence do you need that something needs to change.
If he continues in the same vein I can only see us slipping ever closer to the drop zone. We have a tricky run of fixtures from now until the end of the season, playing most of the teams currently in the top ten. The only way I can see us pulling clear is by Pulis being braver in his selections and giving others, most notably the more creative players, a chance. McManaman and Morrison (when fit), Sessegnon, McClean, Pritchard, Berahino, Sessegnon, Rondon. These are the players that will see us to safety.
I’m not calling for wholesale changes. A solid back four and two defensive midfielders is fine by me just as long as it’s complemented by four more creative, attack-minded players. His starting XI against Newcastle was atrocious in all honesty and if he picks similar teams from now until the end of the season, not only will he lose the few remaining fans who are sticking by him, he will most likely suffer his first relegation as a professional football manager/coach.
We don’t expect the world Tony, we are West Bromwich Albion fans after all, but what we do want to see, especially when we are facing teams like Newcastle, is an attempt to win the match and not merely try not to concede. I can in one respect understand Pulis’ logic. There is so much at stake this season, due to the TV deal that comes into place in the next campaign, that getting results takes precedent, but whereas early in the season we weren’t playing well but picking up points, we are now not playing well but not picking up points. This is why it is essential that Pulis changes his approach and gives others a chance, otherwise I feel we could be playing Championship football yet again next season.