WBA-MAD Blog: How do you solve a problem like Pulis?

Last updated : 08 October 2015 By Wba-mad Editor

It seems like patience is beginning to wear thin after another uninspiring performance away from home from the Baggies. A 2-0 defeat at Crystal Palace has forced many West Brom fans to begin to question current manager Tony Pulis and his defensive tactics. The Baggies faithful have been venting their frustrations on social media at the lack of ambition shown in recent performances, particularly away from The Hawthorns. 

When Pulis was first appointed we all knew exactly what we were going to get. The emphasis was always going to be on defensive work, keeping clean sheets and being well organised. Despite the fans being accustomed to seeing more attacking football under Tony Mowbray and Roberto Di Matteo we were still optimistic about the appointment of Tony Pulis.

Bringing Claudio Yacob back into the fold helped to strengthen us in midfield and that has carried on into this season. Leaving out more attack minded individuals and bringing in players who added more stability to our team was successful in securing our Premier League status last season, but all of a sudden we are being severely punished for our constant defensive style.

Negative tactics

Our most recent home match against Everton was as disappointed as fans have felt in a long time. West Brom were 2-0 up and seemingly in control of the match until a Lukaku double and a goal from Kone turned the game on its head. Needless of the result it was more in which the way we gave away the lead.

At 2-1 up with over 20 minutes to go Rondon was substituted with what looked like an injury only to be replaced by Craig Gardner. Berahino was switched from his position on the wing to a lone striker role and Gardner was deployed on the right hand side of midfield. Losing the physical presence of the Venezulean up front handed the impetus straight to the visitors. Surely bringing on a like for like replacement in Lambert or Anichebe, who can both hold the ball up much better than Berahino, would have been a more suitable choice and possibly resulted in a very different outcome in the match.

As if that game wasn't a warning sign we then make another bizarre substitution against Palace just five days later. With the home side having dominated the first half both with possession and chances created Pulis decided to make a change at half time. To the away fans' amazement Berahino was replaced by Craig Gardner.

In Pulis' defence Berahino was leaving Chris Brunt completely exposed against the pacy Zaha but the 22-year-old is without question the biggest attacking threat in our team. It was clear that the team had been set up to keep a clean sheet. But to invite pressure from the opposition for 90 minutes simply isn't going to work against the quality of teams in the Premier League.

Changing opinions

Up to now the majority of fans have been behind Pulis believing in his philosophy of keeping clean sheets and being defensively solid. But for the first time in his tenure as Albion boss there are many of us who see going to matches as a 'chore' rather than for the entertainment value.

There has been lots of discontent among Albion fans who are continually frustrated by Pulis' negative tactics, substitutions and the using of players in wrong positions. In both the Everton and Crystal Palace games we suffered injuries to Olsson and Evans respectively and both were replaced by James Chester.

In the summer we paid £8 million for the services of Chester whose consistent position at former club Hull City was centre back. He had showed real promise and excelled in the centre back role for Hull so why Tony Pulis has decided to play him in an unfamiliar right back role really is beyond belief.Dawson has started at right back in both of those matches and looked rather solid and he has experience of playing in the position unlike Chester. In both of these games in particular Chester has been completely overrun by the opposition widemen as has Chris Brunt. 

But fans don't seem to be criticising Brunt and Chester for their frailties and rightly so. They are all projecting their anger towards the manager and its not difficult to see why. Brunt, Dawson and Chester have all been asked to play in positions which are unfamiliar to them and it is of little surprise that when they are faced with talented wingers they are being found out. In many games this season it has been the case and Pulis has simply not learnt from his mistakes.

Attacking options

At home there has been more of an attacking style of play, particularly against Chelsea and in the first half against Everton – which was either side of the terribly poor performance against Southampton. The most frustrating thing is we have seen glimpses of the attractive football we are more than capable of playing but once we go behind in games we don't seem to know how to respond.

We have players like Callum McManaman and James McClean who have the pace to trouble opposition defenders, as well as Serge Gnabry and Stephane Sessegnon who both for some reason are receiving limited game time and despite their inconsistency during matches they are players who can unlock defences.

The alternative 

The discontent amongst the Albion supporters has also caused many to beg the question if Tony Pulis is still the right man for the job. At present it seems as though we haven't improved on the start we made last season under Alan Irvine, who was never a popular appointment with the fans. However, despite our slow start again it is highly unlikely that Jeremy Peace will make any rash decisions with Pulis, especially considering the huge turnover of players we have had and the large amount of transfer funds that were spent in the summer. Due to the managerial record that Tony Pulis has in never having been relegated it is almost unthinkable that Peace is even considering any wholesale changes at the moment. 

Yet some fans are already lining up Brendan Rodgers as a possible replacement if the unthinkable was to happen. Having been sacked from his job at Liverpool just a few days ago, many supporters think the attractive football he brought to Swansea a few years ago and his handling of difficult off the field issues would make him an ideal candidate if Pulis was to leave. It does seem as though Peace is willing to give Pulis plenty of time to turn things around but the one thing fans expected from his appointment was 'progression' and that is currently not what we're getting. 

Sam Allardyce is another possibility but again at West Ham he was known for a more defensive minded style and nobody is better at that than Tony Pulis; so would an appointment like this really be a step in the right direction? Personally I think Tony Pulis is the right man for the job, especially considering there isn't anyone available that could do a better job than he is doing with the current squad. Rodgers would certainly be a gamble and it is unlikely he would be willing to come to The Hawthorns after being with such a huge club like Liverpool.

What isn't in question is that the next game at home against Sunderland is now even more vitally important that we get the three points. Even at this stage of the season it looks like a relegation 'six pointer' as we bid to pull away from the bottom three. A win would give us the confidence that we are so desperately craving. Whereas a defeat would confirm that we are in for a long hard season threatened by the worry of relegation. A win is all that matters, but lets hope for the first time this season we have a performance to match.


Follow Sarah on Twitter at @sarah_WBAx