This season was a highly anticipated one mainly because of the pedigree of manager that now occupied our league. We have Mourinho, Klopp and now even Guardiola and as lovers of the game, it is a real treat when these great coaches come up against one another. However, there is one manager that has been ever present in the Premier League for some time now, and that man is Tony Pulis.
Pulis has done a phenomenal job at every club he has been at and at times , I believe, he hasn’t gotten the credit he deserves. He did a brilliant job at Stoke getting them into the Premier League and then making them a stable Premier League side rarely being threatened by relegation. His work at Palace perhaps is the most astonishing achievement. Taking a team destined for relegation to 11th in the table over a short period of time was an outstanding bit of success for Pulis ultimately earning him the Premier League manager of the season award. The thing we also have to remember is that Pulis works his magic with limited funds. He brings in players for little money but one’s he knows can do a job in his team. At times yes he doesn’t get the funding he wants and therefore the players, hence his abrupt departure from Palace, but he is brilliant at making do with what he has.
Pulis left Palace after only 10 months in charge
It seems its a similar story at West Brom. It was clear to all that Pulis didn’t bring in all the players he wanted in the summer and there were questions over whether he would walk just as he did at Palace. On the other hand, the players he has brought in seem to have already had the desired affect. No more so than club record signing Nacer Chadli. Some where surprised at the fact that Spurs allowed the Belgian international to leave and that decision may come back to haunt them based on his early performances for the Baggies. He ran West Ham ragged on Saturday playing a part in all 4 goals scored providing an assist for one and netting 2 himself. He also linked up superbly with striker Salomón Rondón who after a slow start to his West Brom career, finally looks like he could score the goals for his team.
Now I think Pulis himself wouldn’t be naive enough to rule out a relegation fight. However, as a team, West Brom have a manager who has been there and done that. Furthermore they haven’t made that bad a start to the season with 7 points from 5 games which isn’t horrendous and travelling to bottom club Stoke on Saturday they will fancy their chances. On the other hand, I think that if they ever did suffer a poor run of form the fans would be quietly confident because in Tony Pulis they have one hell of a manager.
We all know that struggling to score goals and conceding too many up the other end is never a good combination. Well that is the exact problem that Mark Hughes is finding with his Stoke side at the moment. Having the statistic of conceding the most goals in 2016 is never nice to have looming over you, but the way they are playing, the reputation of the leakiest defence in the league isn’t going to disappear anytime soon.
Stoke have enjoyed many good season’s under Hughes finishing in the top 10 for each of his first 3 seasons and even threatening to win some silver ware along the way. He has transformed them from Pullis’s hard to beat physical outfit to one that can now also play football. The acquisitions of players like Bojan and Arnautovic have added creativity that in the past wasn’t associated with the Potter’s under Pullis. However, just like last season, they have started in a lull. Picking up only 1 point from a possible 15 and sitting pretty at the bottom of the league, it’s safe to say it’s not the start Hughes was hoping for.
Of course last season they started poorly but then found form around 6-7 games into the season. Despite this, the worrying thing this time around is the alarmingly large amount of goals they are shipping. Yet to keep a clean sheet this season and shipping 4 goals in 3 of the 5 league games played, it’s clear where their problem’s lie. This isn’t a new problem either, this stretches back to the back-end of last season where they were also conceding goals for fun. Perhaps yes their season was over by then and they had little to play for but the warning signs were certainly there for the new campaign. The astonishing thing is the lack of physicality at times from the player’s. Indeed at times they have been on the end of the new rules on shirt pulling on set-pieces, but that doesn’t mean you don’t attempt to stop them at all. At times against Palace it was frankly appalling and in all truth it could of been more than 4.
It’s not much better up the other end of the pitch. Wilfried Bony was bought in to score goals, but just like most striker’s he requires the service to do just that. He isn’t blessed with pace and certainly doesn’t possess the ability to run rings round defenders so what you need to do is get it to his feet or in the box. They have player’s like Bojan who can give him the service he requires but if they don’t, Bony is going to continue to struggle just as he did at City.
Overall, it’s a bit of a horror show at the moment. With so many players out of form the signs so far are that Stoke have got a fight on their hands. This is the first major test for Hughes during his Stoke tenure and his future will be determined on whether he can make it through this period.