‘Surprise signings’ are all the talk amongst Albion fans right now after the disappointing performance at Vicarage Road. A game before the season began, Albion would’ve been targeting three points and it was a game they possibly should have done that with Saido Berahino’s header falling wide of the target.
That sets me up nicely for this piece though and the issue is setting up in many respects, firstly, the lack of Albion players able to assist anyone other than on a set-piece and, secondly, the way Pulis sets out his stall.
Now, I did know this when Pulis arrived. He loves defending and he loves a late deal in the market but after watching Manchester City run riot I accepted they were simply a side to be in awe of, however, Watford are not.
This is no disrespect to Watford whatsoever but to not have a single shot, not one, on target against a newly-promoted team is criminal. We’ve had two all season. Lambert, Berahino and Rondon excite me – the trio have all the attributes to scare defences and score goals, however, to do that you need to be near the goal.
Right now that seems to be the burning issue amongst the Hawthorns faithful. Albion can defend for their lives and get Boaz Myhill a golden glove, I don’t contest that, but what I do worry about is how Rickie Lambert seems to be a midfielder and Saido Berahino another full-back – the guys are being asked to do jobs they shouldn’t be doing. They are dropping so deep when Albion finally get the ball they have no-one forward to pass to because everyone is so hyped on concentrating one area of the pitch.
The creative spark is something I am hopeful Pulis will sign, someone to sit in front of Yacob and Fletcher and just behind a striker. Berahino could do that role, he has before under Pulis, but it seems like that’s not something Pulis will entertain this term.
Of course the theory is Albion will go 4-4-2 meaning one of Fletcher or Yacob would be dropped for someone who will help maintain attacks. That could also see an exit for someone else, possibly Morrison, the club’s longest-serving player, or Gardner, two players Pulis does like. But, if another central midfielder arrives, you have to question the future of those players.
What’s certain is the lack of a goal threat isn’t due to the quality of the strikers, I think I would go as far as saying this is the best, on paper, forward line at the Hawthorns in the Premier League era with Long, Lukaku and Odemwingie coming close under Steve Clarke. It’s not impossible to believe a front three could work but it’s unlikely to happen with the Welshman at the helm.
It’s great to see Albion with some ambition in the market and it’s great to see players like Lambert and Rondon arrive at the club, but if you don’t give the strikers the ball what are they meant to do? Ultimately, the players are at West Bromwich Albion because they’re too good for the Championship but not good enough for the step above, in that thought process we can’t create one chance and one half-chance a game and rely on 0-0’s to survive. Obviously, there will be games where we turn up and turn it on but since the arrival of Pulis, Albion have got deeper into their own half.
We can hope that the style changes a little with the new recruits. Those lads may give Pulis what he is after but I can honestly say I see no reason to believe that they will make an impact on the style of play or service the strikers are getting and that worries me.
We’re far from a crisis and I know Pulis will keep West Brom in the division, it’s simply what he does because he’s a very intelligent man, but the way he goes about setting up his side doesn’t adhere to the fan base of a club historically known for passing football. Can the fans get behind the style Pulis plays? Honestly, probably not. There needs to be big moments, momentum for the fans to shout about, but I don’t think Pulis football offers anyone anything to shout about right now.