WBA-MAD Blog: Is the 'Pulis way' the Albion way?

So just what has been going wrong for Albion so far this season? We started the season by being well beaten by early favourites for the title Manchester City before earning a point at newly promoted Watford.

Back at the Hawthorns we lost 3-2 to Chelsea in a hard fought encounter. Our only victory to date was at the Britannia Stadium where we won 1-0 after Stoke had been reduced to 9 men. Last weekend we gained another point at home to Southampton in a game that will certainly not live long in the memory. And so we currently sit in 14th place with 5 points.

Its hardly been a scintillating start to the season but it doesn't seem to be the lack of points which have frustrated the Baggies faithful, more so the disappointing performances that have accompanied these results.

In few days time we face one of the most important fixtures of the season at Villa Park against one of our most fiercest rivals. We have to show some improvement to have a chance of victory, despite Aston Villa's poor form. But currently there are very important components missing from our performances. Certainly at recent away games there has been an air of disappointment from the visiting fans due to being poor in possession, players being played out of position, a lack of attacking football to name just a few.

Typical Pulis 

The performances have been typically 'the Pulis way' which most fans recognised would happen when he was appointed back in January. However, I think the drastic change in our style of play has surprised many of us. We knew his philosophies were to keep out the opposition rather than play swift attcking football and that it would always be a case of getting the three points whether this entertained the fans or not.

Last season this was acceptable from The Hawthorns faithful as our main goal was to stay in the division, and this was achieved with relative ease. We kept cleaned sheets and this ultimately maintained our Premier League status however fans expect more from the club this time round. 

The problem at the moment is we do not have the balance right. Getting to that magical 40 point mark is our ultimate target as is always the case. Fans understand that pretty football won't always be the way and there will be times where we need to grind out results but the entertainment factor is rapidly disappearing.

West Brom have scored the joint second least amount of goals in the division so far. Although we have only conceded 6 goals in our 5 games to and kept clean sheets in 3 – which is the joint second most in the division. And here lies the problem.

Defensively we look solid and organised but going forward there is a lack of urgency and direct attacking play. Our passing statistics so far this season also do not read too kindly. Only Newcastle have a worse average possession across all 5 matches than the Baggies. If we can't improve our passing significantly then scoring goals will continue to be a problem. Morrison & Fletcher in particular are very good passers of the ball but all too often this season passes have gone astray and gifted the opposition possession way too easily and all of our players are culpable of this. 

Square pegs 

Players being played out of their natural positions is also a common problem each week. Pulis' team selection can sometimes be baffling with the main comment being made amongst Albions fans is Craig Gardner being played out wide when clearly in the centre of midfield is where you will get the very best out of him. A winger primarily needs two attributes - pace and providing quality crosses into the box. As much as I am a fan of Gardner he is not blessed with either.

In the summer Pulis bought in McClean and Gnabry but so far has used them sparingly despite them having the qualities needed to put crosses into the box for Rondon and Lambert whose great strengths are heading the ball. Many fans are finding this decision baffling so hopefully come 3pm on Saturday we will finally see this important change made to the teamsheet.

Against Southampton what has been widely reported in the media is our lack of creativity in the side. Personally I thought we were crying out for James Morrison. He played twice for Scotland in the international break but surely he should have been introduced as he is somebody who can unlock defences and help us to create more goalscoring opportunities.

The target  

Another problem is our shots on target. In the 90 minutes against the Saints we only managed one. At least that was an improvement on the amount we had against Watford. Not once did we test their goalkeeper. Chelsea was undoubtedly our best game for creating chances and scoring goals. But 3 goals in 5 games simply isn't good enough. Clean sheets will always be our bread and butter with Tony Pulis in charge but if we can't hit the target, let alone score goals, we will never reach the targets many of the fans have set ourselves in the Premier League. 

In some ways we can't be too harsh on the team, certainly in the last few games where we have encountered problems off the field to add to our problems on it. The transfer debacle surrounding Saido Berahino certainly hasn't helped the situation and not being able to play our most potent goalscorer was bound to have a severe affect on our attacking exploits. Luckily this now seems to have been resolved, for the time being at least, and we can now concentrate on more pressing matters on the field and getting the results we need to push further up the table.

Possession, creating chances and picking the correct players are certainly the main areas we need to improve on for the match against Aston Villa. If we can do this as well as being as good defensively it gives us a great platform to build on and a much better chance of getting the three points all us Baggies crave.

COME ON YOU BAGGIES!

Follow Sarah on Twitter @sarah_WBAx