Tony Pulis

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It’s official: Pardew named new West Brom boss

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Alan Pardew was hired as coach of West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday, securing a return to the Premier League after nearly a year out of management.

The 56-year-old Pardew signed a two-and-a-half-year deal as a replacement for Tony Pulis, who was fired by West Brom’s Chinese owner last week with the team near to the relegation zone.

Pardew inherits a team that is only two points above the bottom three, and is without a win in 13 games in all — 12 of those coming in the league. His first match in charge is on Saturday against Crystal Palace, the club that fired him last December.

“The immediate challenge will be to get the results we need to pull ourselves up the table,” Pardew said. “But I’m aware that while I’m joining one of the great, traditional clubs of English football, it is one determined to go forward in the Premier League.”

Pardew has also coached Newcastle, Southampton, West Ham, Charlton and Reading. West Brom was attracted by his experience of managing in the Premier League.

“Alan brings the experience of more than 300 Premier League games,” West Brom chairman John Williams said, “and the kind of dynamic leadership from which our club can benefit.”

Pardew was voted as the Premier League’s manager of the year in 2012 for guiding Newcastle to a fifth-place finish, but fell out of favor with the club’s fans and left for Palace in December 2014.

Again, he made a good start at a new club, lifting Palace out of the relegation zone and into the top half by the end of that season, but the south London team won only six of 36 games in 2016 and Pardew was fired before the year was over. He has since done some TV work.

While his immediate task will be to keep West Brom in the lucrative Premier League, he may also need to introduce a more positive brand of soccer. West Brom fans grew tired of Pulis’ pragmatic and direct approach, wanting more than just survival in the top flight but some entertainment, too.

The club from central England came under new ownership last year, with Chinese businessman Lai Guochuan becoming the majority shareholder. Backed by Lai, West Brom spent $40 million in the summer and enriched the squad with players like Poland midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak from Paris Saint-Germain, left back Kieran Gibbs from Arsenal, and winger Oliver Burke from Leipzig.

West Brom has possibly got its strongest squad in decades, and Pardew needs to get more out of it than Pulis.

Gary Megson, who took charge of the team on an interim basis following the departure of Pulis, has left the club, He guided West Brom to two draws, at Tottenham on Saturday and at home against Newcastle on Tuesday.

Premier League Tuesday: Rivalry renewed (video)

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Midweek fixtures in the Premier League break up the work week, even as they cause headaches for managers and players alike.

[ MORE: What’s next for Matt Miazga? ]

Tuesday dishes up four appetizers for Wednesday’s sextet of fixtures, beginning with a tasty derby down South.

Brighton and Hove Albion vs. Crystal Palace — 2:45 p.m. ET

A heated rivalry which has been very even throughout history, the Gulls have a two-win edge on the Eagles over 104 matches. They last met in the 2013 Championship playoff, with Palace winning 2-0 over two legs; The stakes a just a tad lower this go-round given the time of year, but Palace is improving — 2-2-2 in its last six after a historically bad start — and would love to use a derby win to escape the drop zone for the first time this season.

Leicester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 2:45 p.m. ET

Mauricio Pochettino isn’t playing down Spurs’ four-match slump in form, saying the club’s title hopes would sink into desperation with another loss. Leicester is up to 12th, and will certainly recall the 6-1 spanking Spurs laid on them to end 2016-17. Erik Lamela is available for Spurs for the first time in a year.

Watford vs. Manchester United — 3 p.m. ET

United dodged a bullet when it learned Romelu Lukaku would not face a ban for a pair of kicks aimed at Brighton back Gaetan Bong. Now they’ll face a Watford side which looked quite dangerous in clobbering Newcastle away.

West Bromwich Albion vs. Newcastle United — 3 p.m. ET

It’s a relegation six-pointer at the Hawthorns, with West Brom hoping to stay unbeaten since the sacking of Tony Pulis. The Baggies’ draw at Tottenham will give them more confidence than the visitors, who have lost four straight including the aforementioned blowout against Watford. Newcastle knows it’s under-manned, but is targeting six points from its next six to keep a safety pace.

Unsworth rips into Everton players after big loss

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David Unsworth loves Everton, but hates the performance of his rudderless team.

The caretaker manager and longtime Toffee wasn’t at a loss for words after a 4-1 shellacking at the hands of Southampton on Sunday

“It’s killing me,” he said.

[ RECAP: Saints 4-1 Everton ]

Unsworth has called the Everton job his dream job, but the Toffees have failed to do much of anything since cutting ties with Ronald Koeman.

They remain just two points clear of the drop zone. From the BBC:

“Confidence is as low as it has ever been. The club has to decide and the sooner that happens the better. The players need this resolving. What I see is a happy squad but I’d rather have an unhappy squad that’s winning. I want what’s best for the club and I hope the players do too.”

In other words, Everton’s squad is a sated bunch despite the losses. Somewhere, Koeman is smirking (He loves a smirk, though, to be fair).

Many fearful Everton supporters and neutral pundits have called for Sam Allardyce due to his record of never being relegated, but if a club feels it has to go with a domestic boss with a record might we suggest Tony Pulis? At least there’d be less “me first” talk after games…

West Brom reportedly talk with Alan Pardew

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Is the Pardew Bump coming to the Baggies?

West Bromwich Albion is holding talks with Alan Pardew regarding its managerial vacancy, according to multiple reports. West Brom fired Tony Pulis last week.

[ WBA: Manager change slippery slope ]

Pardew was fired by Crystal Palace last season, two years after being hired away from Newcastle United.

The Wimbledon-born Pardew, 56, may be the anti-Tony Pulis, and the attack-minded Baggies supporters will, at the very least, enjoy what Pardew will bring to the pitch. He’s also entertaining, even if it’s very much “me first” often.

Both clubs saw red-hot streaks under Pardew, and he’s led both Palace and West Ham to FA Cup Finals.

There are plenty of fish in the managerial sea, and some will view Pards’ name as another unfortunate rehash. There’s a decent chance that’s true, but his appointment would be a refreshing change given West Brom’s underachievement and “unlockable” talent.

PL Playback: Pogba the key for Man United

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POGBACK

Paul Pogba‘s snake hips goal celebration had been dearly missed by Manchester United’s fans.

So too had his marauding runs from midfield since he injured his hamstring in early September. Jose Mourinho had previously said United were a totally different team without Pogba and his display in the 4-1 win against Newcastle on Saturday proved it.

Speaking to MUTV after the game, Pogba shared his belief that if all of United’s players stay fit they can challenge Manchester City for the title.

“The season is really long so we have to be fit – not only me but all the players,” Pogba said. “To win the league we need all our players. When you have one injured here, one injured there, it doesn’t help. It’s always better to have a full team. Zlatan’s back and Marcos after a long injury. It was hard for them but they kept believing and worked hard to come back. We need them to win the league and we’re really glad they’re here.”

Even if he didn’t jinx past Newcastle’s defense to clip in a wonderful cross for Anthony Martial to head home United’s first, or then make a 60-yard sprint to get on the end of Marcus Rashford‘s knockdown to make it 3-1, Pogba’s presence was felt.

His return gave United’s entire squad, and fanbase, a lift and everything is set up rather nicely for him to battle it out with Kevin De Bruyne in the Manchester derby on Dec. 10 at Old Trafford.

With Pogba this season United have played five games, winning four and drawing one.

Without Pogba United have played seven, won four, lost twice and drawn once in the Premier League.

His influence on this team is key to the way it has been assembled by Mourinho and his power, all-action displays and strong character get the best out of those around him. Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku tick because Pogba is linking the midfield and attack effortlessly with his energetic displays. Over the past two months there’s been a main reason why Lukaku had done seven games without scoring for United before last weekend: Pogba.

Pogba’s comments about United pushing City for the title if they stay fit appear misguided but if he stays fit then there’s no doubt United are the best version of themselves.


INFURIATING ARSENAL

When they play like they did on Saturday, the only team Arsenal will finish below this season will be Manchester City.

Seriously.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned from the North London derby ]

The Gunners destroyed Tottenham Hotspur with a ruthless display in the first half as Mesut Ozil unlocked Spurs’ midfield and defense, Alexis Sanchez ran them ragged and Alexandre Lacazette played on the last shoulder of Tottenham’s disheveled defense.

Arsene Wenger was rewarded for a bold, attack-minded team selection and with Shkodran Mustafi back fit he now has his first-choice starting lineup at his disposal. If the Gunners stay fit, they can make real charge up the Premier League table in the coming weeks with a bunch of winnable games.

In four of their next five Premier League games they should beat Huddersfield, Southampton, West Ham and Newcastle, with the big tests at home against Man United (Dec. 2) and Liverpool (Dec. 22) showing just how far they’ve come so far this season.

The Emirates, so often the site of protests and fan unrest in previous seasons, is become a fortress for Arsenal who have now won 11 PL games there on the spin, their best-ever run of consecutive wins at the stadium.

Between now and Dec. 22 we will get a very good idea as to what way this season will go for Arsenal.

If Wenger’s players stay fit and he remains positive in his team selection, the Gunners could be rewarded with not only a place back in the top four but much more.


WEST BROM’S GAMBLE

Tony Pulis is the man you want in a relegation battle. So, why did West Bromwich Albion sack him?

A run of two wins in 21 Premier League games sealed Pulis’ fate but what exactly did West Brom’s owners expect would happen?

Pulis’ short-term bump from taking over in January 1 2015 wore off midway through last season and his methods, although lauded by many for preserving his proud record of never being relegation from the Premier League, wear players down over time. Even the wily old crew he had assembled at West Brom (they had the oldest average starting XI in the PL) couldn’t cope with it anymore.

[ MORE: Baggies sack Tony Pulis. but what next? ]

The old adage “losing the dressing room” is frowned upon by folks in the industry but it is clear that’s what happened here. Players believe they are better than perhaps they are, most of the time, and get sick and tired of being told to just clip the ball long, stay compact and try to score from set pieces. Most of Pulis’ training session focus on team shape and denying the opposition the ball. Having the ball is an afterthought. That’s too much for some to handle day in, day out.

And we all know, despite the Baggies being a solid midtable club for seven years in the PL now, that getting rid of one manager is much easier than a squad of players.

Getting rid of Pulis was the only available option.

Yet, after a summer where they did some great business to bring in Grzegorz Krychowiak, Kieran Gibbs, Ahmed Hegazi and Jay Rodriguez, things seemed to be on the up. Yet that recruitment and losing the likes of Darren Fletcher caused issues in the squad balance and Pulis all of a sudden had too many newbies on board who either took too much time to get used to his methods or didn’t want to adjust their game to do so.

All in all, West Brom are now left with very few options to replace Pulis other than appointing someone extremely similar to him. Sam Allardyce is from the area (a boyhood Wolves fan, West Brom’s bitter rivals) is the bookmakers favorite and he would seem to be the perfect firefighter against a Premier League relegation battle.

But, like many PL clubs who have sacked their managers so far this season (hello, Everton, Crystal Palace, West Ham) or are contemplating it (Swansea, Southampton and maybe Stoke) the alternatives to their current boss aren’t plentiful. Keeping hold of Pulis was no longer an option West Brom had but, over time, it may seem like the correct one.


Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here