After this season’s unpredictable start to the campaign, West Brom still look as sturdy as ever under manager Tony Pulis in his first full season in charge at The Hawthorns.
Saturday’s heroic 2-1 victory over joint-Premier League leaders Arsenal highlighted how far the Midlands club have progressed under the former Stoke City and Crystal Palace general, a priceless win that saw them rise to 12th in the current standings, already eight points above the drop zone.
But what three things have we learnt about the Baggies after 13 games?
1) Pulis’ reputation is rubbing off
Pulis’ management style of using the long-ball method and setting up defensively; but most importantly reputably achieving solid results on a small budget and having never being relegated, seems to be paying dividends down at The Hawthorns this season.
After guiding the Baggies to 13th in the table last term; nine points above the bottom three, West Brom already look a safe bet to extend their Premier League status for a seventh successive season come the end of the 2015-16 campaign.
Having conceded only 17 league goals from their opening 13 fixtures; three less than leaders Leicester City and six less than defending champions Chelsea, Pulis’ resoluteness has rubbed off on his defenders, with the likes of Craig Dawson and Gareth McAuley particularly impressing along the back four.
Saturday’s shock 2-1 victory over title contenders Arsenal shows just how far West Brom have come under Pulis’ reign since his New Year’s Day appointment.
2) West Brom have another safe pair of hands
Regular number one goalkeeper Ben Foster was ruled out for the remainder of last season back in March, before suffering an injury setback this term to leave him ruled out until at least Christmas. That was a horrifying announcement that could have sent shivers down Baggies fans’ spines in their annual mission to stay in the English top-flight.
However Wales international and West Brom back-up shot stopper Boaz Myhill has filled Foster’s boots remarkably well this season to spearhead the club’s impressive defensive doggedness.
Only Manchester City’s Joe Hart (7) has more clean sheets than Myhill’s six in the Premier League this term, making boss Pulis’ decision to stick or twist with the 33-year-old’s future between the sticks a whole lot more problematic once Foster returns from injury near the New Year.
3) Keeping Berahino should be their New Year’s resolution
Despite being impressively stubborn at the back; it is still West Brom’s attacking ability that will concern West Brom fans for the remainder of the season.
Club-record signing Salomon Rondon was brought in during the summer to shoulder the club’s goalscoring responsibility alongside Saido Berahino, although both forwards have managed just three Premier League goals each so far this campaign.
With the January transfer window fast approaching and England international Berahino destined to be linked with moves to the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham once again; it is crucial that the Baggies keep hold of their star striker, a 22-year-old who has materialised as the club’s top goalscorer throughout the past two years.
Averaging less than a goal a game this term; it is imperative Pulis & Co. ward off Berahino’s potential suitors in the New Year to prevent them from potentially enduring a perilous slip down the league table.