20 Premier League games without a win out of 26. 10 of those games went without scoring a single goal and with a top scorer with just 4 league goals. This season, West Bromwich Albion are setting all kinds of records for all the wrong reasons. With this dismal season so far, will the Baggies find themselves in the Championship next season?
It’s been a revolving door of coaching as West Brom managers have found out for a long time now and aside from Tony Pulis, there has been at least one managerial change every year for the past eight seasons. It’s become a dangerous position to be in and the latest recruit, Alan Pardew is certainly feeling the tension. With Chelsea as their next opponents, the team’s bottom-placed club face an uphill battle.
“It’s four points to safety”, said Pardew. “You only need two wins and you’ll be out of it but we know the next game will be tricky and the games after that will be where our season lies. We’ve got to believe we can go there with a game plan, stick to it and come away with something because the games are running out and we need to put some points on the board.”
What seems to be Pardew’s strength is making a team play good football that’s attractive for the fans, whilst keeping a side just above mid-table. At his two-year spell at Crystal Palace, Pardew managed to take his side to an FA Cup final, an achievement nobody predicted. He even has the accolade of winning Premier League Manager of the Season in 2011/12 when Newcastle beat the odds to finish 6th.
A successful team who are looking to stay mid-table is the kind of role Pardew has always found himself relishing, and he has done a good job matching results to entertaining football when it comes to positions like that. In fact, this style of play is what interested new signing Daniel Sturridge to sign on loan.
The signing of the Liverpool striker will certainly do no harm and if he can start finding the back of the next on a regular basis, there is hope yet. Sturridge said: “I’ve got friends here I’ve played with before. The manager spoke very well, the challenge with the team and the style of play – I just felt this was the right fit for me.”
However that kind of football is difficult to achieve when you’re with a side who are struggling to even put two passes together. Even if Sturridge believes he will enjoy the football, the more the season progresses, the more it’s starting to look as if Pardew was not the right fit for the role and his style will not fit the objective of the club – to avoid relegation. This isn’t the kind of position you would back Pardew to recover from. In just 14 games in charge, the Englishman has only won three games; the lowest win percentage of his career so far.
It’s a background many had an issue with when Pardew was appointed following the dismissal of Tony Pulis. “I understand why West Brom fans were turning against Tony Pulis . If we accept that football is a results business, two wins in his last 21 games was always going to make Pulis vulnerable to the sack,” said former player Robbie Savage. “But to go out and employ Alan Pardew, who won just six games in 2016 at his last job with Crystal Palace, did not make sense.”
It is becoming harsh reality that the Baggies must now strive to collect points at all costs, whether that be bad viewing for their fans, or simply back-to-the-wall games with no entertainment value, West Brom simply cannot afford to drop any more points. With Pardew’s record, he doesn’t appear to be a specialist in survival so switching tactics to simply stay alive will be a challenging experience for him, but suffering a heavy amount of defeats and recovering is something he has endured before.
Going back to the 2013/14 season, the then-manager of Newcastle United ended the campaign terribly and lost 14 out of 20 league matches. The following season started in same vein with Pardew not managing a win in the opening six games. However, what followed was five wins on the trot to bring the Magpies out of the relegation zone and remarkably go from 20th to 6th. With that kind of history, you would think that maybe he has the experience to turn things around.
The next five games will be absolutely crucial for West Brom and for Pardew in particular. If he can somehow miraculously steer his side out of the relegation drop, he’ll have not only achieved an incredible feat for the fans, but also proved himself to be the right man to have followed the dismissal of Pulis. And that would make him a success.