Connect in the back of the net

Tony Pulis is the manager who safeguards a team against relegation.

He does so with little drama, with little attention. There are no heart-wrenching final day escapes, it is done with the reliability of a Ford Fiesta, but without the thrills you might experience from an Italian, more exciting alternative.

Pulis was synonymous with Stoke City when they arrived in the top flight. His brand of resolute defence and set piece dominance made the Potters part of a Premier League cliché. They became the acid test for any team.

He then saved Crystal Palace, and has made West Bromwich Albion into a Premier League stalwart. With Pulis at the helm, safety is no concern. The 40-point mark will be reached, and it – like last season – is often reached well before the late-April, May panic.

The Welshman brings little more, though.

His sides notoriously tail off once the magic 40 has been reached. The football does little to inspire, though it deserves respect for its results. Pulis’ Baggies have scored at one goal per match for his tenure; hardly the form to get cameras turning to the Hawthorns every other weekend.

 

The problems

This is where the problems arise.

Stoke eventually tired of the stagnation, and begun to dream of something better. Whether an improvement in results or a sense of joy returning to the football, the Potters had smatterings of that under Mark Hughes. Freedom was, albeit briefly, enjoyed in the final third and they made ninth place their home.

Obviously that change brings risk, and there’s no guarantee West Brom are anywhere near that yet.

The Baggies will be safe this season. Safety may well be as good as secured by March, but the next step is the all-important one. Last season their strong first two-thirds of the season was undermined by their form late on, kicking on this year would be a sign of a changed Pulis.

 

No signs of progress

The signs of progress are non-existent – they have 10 points from nine matches – and the manner of recent performances has been extravagantly negative even for Pulis.

Three defensive midfielders were fielded against Leicester and Southampton, despite both teams being low on confidence. One point was delivered from the two matches, which, when paired with poor home form, makes ugly reading.  

West Brom have not won a match since they beat Accrington Stanley on August 22nd. Pulis’ methods are far finished, yet it would be no surprise to see this being his last season at the Hawthorns.

 

Tenure at risk of fizzling out

Facing Spurs, Chelsea and Manchester City in their next four league matches, the home encounters with Newcastle and Crystal Palace that follow are must-win matches.

It would be typical of Pulis to deliver two victories, but, aside from a stylistic leap, it would do little to win over those disenchanted with his approach.

The club might well be satisfied with safety year on year. Eventually, though, fans will demand more from their team. Risks, and a sprinkling of flair can go a long way.

Pulis’ West Brom tenure is at risk of fizzling out just as his time at Stoke did.

 

Written by Sam Cox

Follow Sam on Twitter @SamRCox_

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