West Brom are on the verge of dropping out of the Premier League, ending their 10-year tenure in the top flight. The Baggies’ defeat at the hands of Huddersfield at The Hawthorns has left them adrift at the bottom of the table, staring down a future in the Championship next term.
Under Tony Pulis at the start of the season, the club enjoyed back-to-back victories. However, in the time since, they’ve recorded just one triumph. Pulis was sacked in November, with West Brom situated outside of the relegation zone. However, new manager Alan Pardew has been unable to get his side firing, recording just one league win since being appointed one week after Pulis’ dismissal.
Teams have previously been in perilous situations at the bottom of the table. None more so than the Baggies’ team in the 2003/04 campaign, who became the first Premier League side to avoid relegation after being bottom at Christmas. Pardew’s men are facing an uphill challenge, being backed for the drop at odds of 1/7 with Betway as of 1st March 2018. There have been a number of factors in the club’s fall from grace, having finished comfortably in mid-table last season.
Lack Of Fluency
West Brom have maintained a solid core of players during their tenure in the Premier League. Gareth McAuley, Chris Brunt and Ben Foster have been integral to maintaining the club’s status in the top flight. However, the three players have either seen injuries take their toll or have suffered a decline in form, especially this term. Foster still has plenty of years ahead of him as a keeper at the age of 34. The Baggies have missed the presence of McAuley in the middle of their defence, with him playing just six times in the Premier League this term.
The club have not been reluctant spenders in the transfer market, aided by their takeover and sponsorship deals with K8.com. They were active last summer, splashing out significant fees on Jay Rodriguez and Oliver Burke along with a move for Kieran Gibbs. Grzegorz Krychowiak arrived on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, with the midfielder once interesting the best clubs in the English top flight. None of the signings have managed to find their feet at The Hawthorns. The same could be said for the players that arrived in 2016, with Nacer Chadli failing to reproduce the performances he delivered at Tottenham in a blue and white shirt after beating off fierce competition to sign the Belgian.
Pulis was long criticised for his negative style of play and attempted to address issues in the final third by signing creative players, such as Chadli, Burke, Rodriguez and Salomon Rondon. However, it has not yielded success, with the club scoring just 22 goals thus this season, while they just averaged above a goal-a-game in the 2016/17 season. Pulis discovered that if you’re not playing entertaining football or bringing positive results, you will not be in the dugout for the long term. Unfortunately for West Brom, his successor has not reversed their fortunes either.
West Brom have endured a term in turmoil since the departure of Pulis. This culminated in an incident with several veteran players stealing a taxi while on a warm-weather training camp in Barcelona in February. Although incidents such as those are never welcome, the worst aspect was the personnel involved; senior professionals Jonny Evans, Gareth Barry, Jake Livermore and Boaz Myhill were the guilty parties. It does not say a great deal for their commitment or Pardew’s control of the side that players who should be an example to follow are the cause for the disruption at such a crucial stage of the campaign.
The club’s board has also been overturned in recent weeks, with owner Guochuan Lai firing chairman John Williams and chief executive Martin Goodman. Mark Jenkins was promoted to replace Goodman but the fact the turmoil at the club has moved into the boardroom does not bode well for the Baggies in the future. Add to the mix the allegations of racist abuse made against Rodriguez by Brighton’s Gaeten Bong – West Brom will be desperate for the campaign to end whether it ends in the Premier League or the Championship.
Even with financial backing, there’s no guarantee of returning to the top flight, as Aston Villa have discovered with moves for John Terry among others. Sunderland’s peril in the second tier shows that teams can descend rapidly. West Brom have to resolve matters on and off-the-pitch as soon as possible.