West Brom: Sacking Tony Pulis looks foolish now as relegation stares them in the face

West Brom made the decision in November to sack the unpopular manager in the hopes it would invigorate the Baggies season – that bold move has failed spectacularly.

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(Photo Credit: Tony Hisgett)

Tony Pulis may not be everyone’s cup of tea due to his defensive football and perceived negative tactics but the Welshman has a proven track record of keeping teams in the Premier League. West Brom decided in November last year to sack the unpopular manager in the hopes it would invigorate the Baggies season – that bold move has failed spectacularly. 

The Pulis reign

In 106 Premier League games as Baggies boss Pulis won just 31 meaning he won less than 33% of his games. This is not a great record but if you win 12 Premier League games every season you stand a great chance of staying up.

When he arrived at the club West Brom were positioned in 17th place and looked in real danger of falling out the Premier League trap door. Pulis stabilised the club and picked up 26 points from 18 games – including victories over Manchester United and Chelsea. West Brom eventually finished 13th with 44 points. 

The 2015-16 season was again solid with West Brom finishing 13th and never really in the relegation question. Pulis conducted some impressive business bringing in players like Salomon Rondon, Jonny Evans and James Chester. 

West Brom became guilty of complacency during the second half of the 2015-16 season as they won none of their last nine games – Pulis and his players were branded as being on the beach from the moment they confirmed their survival. 

The 2016-17 season saw West Brom finish in the top 10 of the Premier League with 45 points. Fans continued to be frustrated though as Pulis and his team switched off for the final eight games of the season – West Brom lost seven of them. 

This season Pulis was probably a victim of his own success as West Brom fans tolerated his style of play provided they were never in the relegation question. When he was sacked – he left the side one point above the relegation zone and without a win in 10 games. 

The “Pulis style”

The main issue with Pulis is undoubtedly his style of play. He has garnered a reputation for setting his teams up to not lose rather than to express themselves hoping to get a victory. 

While it is hard to argue that Pulis plays exciting football – teams like West Brom need to remember that they are punching above their weight by staying in the Premier League year-on-year. 

Ultimately, the ‘Pulis style’ is focused on being defensively organised and utilising set pieces. While that can make for grim viewing – it is also an effective style of play that can turn sides that constantly worry about relegation into solid Premier League sides. 

West Brom scored 20 set piece goals in 2016-17 which accounts for just under 50% off their goals. They only conceded eight goals from set pieces. This season they have scored just nine set-piece goals. 

That massive drop off in set-piece productivity will relegate West Brom this season.

The replacement – Alan Pardew

The final point that needs to be made regarding the decision to sack Tony Pulis, is the decision to hire Alan Pardew as his replacement. 

Pardew has been a rather inconsistent manager, particularly in the Premier League. His spell at West Ham was up and down – he was sacked with the team looking sure bets to get relegated. He then went to Charlton and took them down with a whimper to the Championship. His surprising hiring at Newcastle led to some successes including a fifth-place finish – but ultimately his reign was inconsistent.

Crystal Palace looked like the perfect fit for Pardew and for one year they were a match made in heaven. However, Pardew has won just SEVEN of his last 55 Premier League games since that bright start in London. 

West Brom replaced Tony Pulis with a manager who has been losing for two years. 

Decision in hindsight

Hindsight is a wonderful thing because it allows us to judge things that have happened in the past. West Brom fans will regret their negative attitude towards Pulis and their new owners have been given a harsh lesson – the grass is not always greener.

Had West Brom kept with Pulis then there is no doubt they would be better positioned in the Premier League. The Welshman is in the ilk of Sam Allardyce in that he is pretty much a banker for survival. Pardew has picked up just eight points from a possible 48 available. 

Relegation is now all but confirmed for Albion after this weekend’s 4-1 defeat to Leicester City. I am sure the owners and fans wished they have given Pulis a longer chance to turn things around as the future looks far bleaker since Pardew took the job.