West Brom’s season began in ideal Tony Pulis fashion. Two 1-0 victories for six points out of six, it was vintage Pulis.
Frustration followed with a home draw to Stoke, before a rare three-conceded day left them defeated at Brighton’s Amex Stadium.
Unfortunate not to beat West Ham in the following match, Pulis’ side were then underwhelming on Monday Night Football as poor finishing left them with nothing to show from a trip to the Emirates.
Optimism may be questioned, but still warranted
For a club who have not won in four, optimism might be questioned.
West Bromwich Albion are not going to shock anyone this season, but they are in a position of relative comfort with a manager who will – at the bare minimum – keep them safe. Safe in mid-table, and even without the tension of a relegation battle in all likelihood.
Optimism is warranted. The Baggies nearly broke into the top seven last season (before the trademark post-40-point-drop-off) and have bolstered their squad.
The arrivals of Grzegorz Krychowiak, Gareth Barry, Kieran Gibbs, Ahmed Hegazi, Jay Rodriguez and Oliver Burke refreshed a squad in need of a facelift.
Substance over style
Pulis’ pragmatism borders on negativity on occasion, but his end product cannot be challenged. Burke and Rodriguez should add important firepower to support the often isolated Salomon Rondon, and the defence is going to be lock-tight throughout.
A foray towards the top six is out of sight. Pipping the underperforming Everton to seventh is a realistic goal for the Midlands club, however.
Benefiting from Pulis’ defensive tendency without compromising the attacking instincts of their gifted forwards players is the challenge this season.
Top half should be an expectation
Ambition beyond avoiding relegation has been non-existent in Pulis’ managerial career to date, but this is the season that he can prove he can be something more than a 40 point specialist.
A top half finish is not only a goal. It must be an expectation at the Hawthorns this campaign.
Written by Sam Cox
Follow Sam on Twitter @SamRCox_
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