West Brom Are Still Progressing Under Tony Pulis

It’s very easy to underestimate the influence Tony Pulis can have at a football club. People get stuck on stereotypes and believe that Pulis just has the ambition to keep his side in the Premier League.

That usually starts because Tony will take over a team in trouble like a Crystal Palace or West Bromwich Albion (WBA). He does his firefighting routine and keeps the club up.

Then (if he stays) he will steady the ship and go into a campaign playing pragmatic football and trying to win as many points as possible. They’ll usually see a strong improvement in their final league position and finish in mid-table. Last term WBA finished tenth, the definitive mid-table position.

What Tony doesn’t do is sit still. Nor does he really care what the critics say about him.

This summer you could see the West Brom boss step up a level in the transfer market. He brought in players that would technically enhance his squad.

I mentioned the big signing of Oliver Burke last week, the Scottish forward has plenty of potential. He has a directness and ability to light up Premier League encounters.

Egyptian international defender Ahmed Hejazi looks to be an asset in the air and not scared of the ball. The loan signing bagged the winner with a header against Bournemouth on his debut. He made a big mistake in the draw with Stoke but he’ll learn from that.

Veteran Gareth Barry will add plenty of experience in the heart of midfield and will comfortably replace former club captain Darren Fletcher. The holding player is assured on the ball and smart in the challenge. Pulis has always valued well respected elder players.

You get the sense that Jay Rodriguez just needed a change of scenery. Broke into the England squad during an impressive spell at Southampton but then suffered from numerous injuries and struggled to regain full fitness. The twenty-eight year old has started all three league fixtures so far, playing 266 minutes in total and grabbing a goal in the Stoke game.

In the final day of the transfer window Pulis snapped up Kieran Gibbs in a £7m deal. The left-back will be desperate to prove himself at the Hawthorns after being dumped by Arsenal. Good going forward and you’d imagine West Brom gaffer Pulis will make him stronger at the back too. Gibbs will want to add to his ten England caps and he’ll only do that by impressing at his new club.

Probably the biggest deal involving West Brom was signing Pole Grzegorz Krychowiak on loan from Ligue 1 giants PSG.

While he only started seven times in the French league last term, Krychowiak was superb before that at Sevilla. He constantly works hard, protects his defence and his passing success rate is consistently good. Strong in the challenge, I expect him to win plenty of midfield battles this term.

Tony has also managed to keep hold of captain Jonny Evans. The central defender was wanted by high spenders Manchester City, but City couldn’t come up with the £30m plus fee West Brom wanted for the Northern Irishman. Evans gives the Baggies valuable experience at the back, composed on the ball and has a good eye for an interception. Holding onto the player gives the whole club a boost.

Tony Pulis is starting to see his side evolve. They’re still hard to beat, which is a very good thing by the way. Yet they now have different attacking options and look solid in midfield.

It has seen instant results with the Baggies still undefeated in the Premier League, recording two victories and a draw. They’ve also only conceded once in those three league outings. The Albion have also progressed in the League Cup.

I can see the West Bromwich Albion fans and their manager enjoying this campaign and they might even finish higher than last season’s tenth place.

After years of instability and chopping and changing their manager, Tony Pulis has given WBA continuity and reliability. This summer he’s strengthened his squad and has them pulling in the same direction. That direction seems to be the right direction too!


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