Tony Pulis

Premier League Preview: Arsenal vs. West Bromwich Albion

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  • Hosts have won last four matches
  • Arsenal leads all-time 70W-31D-38L
  • WBA last won at Arsenal in 2010

Arsenal watched as all of their traditional Top Four rivals posted big wins Saturday, and must do the same Monday when West Bromwich Albion visits the Emirates Stadium (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE AT 3 P.M. ET MONDAY HERE

The Gunners have just seven points through five matches, but have claimed four of the last six available including a scoreless draw against Chelsea.

West Brom have one more point, but have dipped in form after a red-hot start. The Baggies have one point in their last three Premier League outings.

What they’re saying

Arsene Wenger on choosing his front three“First of all, the fact that they can compliment each other well. You need to have the potential to be strong on counter-attacks, potential to be strong to get in behind defenders, potential to combine with each other as well. All these kinds of ingredients come into your mind and the whole thing has to be well-balanced.”

Tony Pulis on his luck against Arsenal: “I’ve got a great record against them at home for whichever clubs I’ve managed in the Premier League – but I must admit the record at their stadium is the opposite. It would be nice to change that. It will be a real, real tough game but the players should take some confidence into it after their performance against Manchester City.”

Prediction

The Gunners seem to be coming around to form, even with some injuries and absences. A win puts them within striking distance of the Top Four, and the Gunners shouldn’t have too much of a problem making that happen at home with a 3-1 win.

Midfielder speaks after unusual break: “All is good in the Livermore house”

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England and West Bromwich Albion midfielder Jake Livermore has been given a break from his club due to fatigue.

Livermore didn’t play in this weekend’s 0-0 home draw with West Ham United and will not return to training until Thursday.

[ MORE: Stats of Premier League wkend ]

Manager Tony Pulis said the club analyzed Livermore’s numbers from the past few matches, and noted that they weren’t up to the player’s standards.

“We checked all of Jake’s running stats and his data and he had dropped off a bit. So we giving him a couple of days off. … I think for the first time going away with England during the summer and then having these two call-ups, I think playing all the time has really, really taken it out of the boy.”

The headline on West Brom’s piece is “Livermore Recharges His Batteries,” which rings nicely for the midfielder.

The break caused some concern from supporters, who remember his failed drug test following the death of his child. Here’s what Livermore says about the break, via his Twitter:

“I hadn’t had this time in summer due to international duties and then myself wanting to do a full pre-season with my then new team-mates. All is good in the Livermore house hold but thanks for those who showed concerns.”

The Baggies had taken seven points from their first four matches before Saturday’s nil-nil.

Premier League 2017-18 preview – West Bromwich Albion

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West Brom is an interesting case. With Tony Pulis leading the way, the Baggies have not truly flirted with relegation since their 17th-place finish in 2014 that saw them finish just three points above the drop. But with finishes of 13th, 14th, and 10th since then, what exactly defines a successful season for the Baggies?

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Premier League obscurity is not a bad thing anymore. With the massive amounts of cash that come with a spot in the English top flight, a long stretch of bottom-half finishes could see the club amass money to eventually become a major player in the market. Clearly, West Brom is biding its time until the club can make a serious move, although the risky acquisition of Jay Rodriguez proves ambition. However, with teams constantly improving around them, the Baggies did little business this summer, which is worrying.

Best, worst case scenarios – The most Baggies fans can usually hope for is Premier League safety, but did last season’s 10th-placed finish change the expectations? Growth is always what any club hopes to achieve, whether it be short-term or long-term, and now fans will be looking for a top-half spot. The Baggies have just one other Premier League top-half finish ever, coming in 2012/13 just before the relegation scare. It would seem the best-case scenario would be for West Brom to match that achievement with hopes of long-term growth from there.

Worst-case would see this club relegated. There is no true star-power on the squad, and while Tony Pulis has a steady ship currently, it’s not hard to envision a few poor results spiraling things out of control.


Best possible XI is…

Foster

Dawson — Evans — McAuley — Nyom

Livermore — Yacob

Phillips — Morrison — Chadli

Rondon


[ MORE: 2017-18 PL season preview hub ] 

Transfers In: Jay Rodriguez (Southampton, $16 million), Ahmed Hegazy (Al Alhy, Loan).

Transfers Out: Craig Gardner (Birmingham, $2 million), Sebastian Pocognoli (Standard Liege, Free), Darren Fletcher (Stoke City, Free).

Last season: 

— 10th place in Premier League
— FA Cup 3rd Round (lost to Derby County)
— League Cup 2nd Round (lost to Northampton Town)

Star Player: Matt Phillips — With Nacer Chadli struggling for consistency on a team that utilizes the flanks, Matt Phillips is the engine to the machine. With nine assists last season to lead the team in his first season with the Baggies, Phillips is a critical part of a team that doesn’t attack a whole lot.

Unfortunatley, Phillips tweaked his hamstring in preseason, and according to manager Tony Pulis, it could be related to repeated back problems the 26-year-old struggles with. If those two problems keep him out for any significant amount of time, West Brom will have to lean on Chadli, who flashes brilliance at times but also tends to disappear quite often. That was evident last season when he made 31 Premier League appearances, but only completed the full 90 minutes 10 times. This team needs Phillips.

Coach’s Corner: Tony Pulis — Pulis has provided a steady presence wherever he goes. He locks teams down, turns them into a disciplined machine, and grinds out results. West Brom sorely needed his presence when he arrived, and now growth seems attainable. The 59-year-old doesn’t bring an exciting style of play, but occasionally the excitement arrives in the surprising results. Last season, the Baggies took care of business against teams below them and upset Arsenal down the stretch.

PST Predicts: The key this season is to stay healthy and avoiding long stretches of failure. If Phillips is indeed injured for a while, there’s not much depth for the Baggies to fall back on. Most worrying is the nine-match winless run to finish the season last year, which featured seven losses. Often, that can be a harbinger of how things will go the following campaign, especially considering the squad hardly turned over this summer. It would be great to see Tony Pulis take this team into the top half two years in a row, but more likely they will end up looking over their shoulders in 14th.

Chadli off West Brom preseason trip after Pulis bust-up

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Nacer Chadli has had a row with Tony Pulis and, predictably, he’s lost.

The Daily Telegraph reports that West Brom’s record signing has not traveled with the Baggies for the preseason trip to Austria after complaining to Pulis about the nature of the grueling week-long trip to the Alps to get them ready for the upcoming Premier League campaign.

Chadli will now stay at home and train on his own and is due to link up with this teammates in Hong Kong when they take part in the Asia Trophy later this month.

That won’t be awkward at all…

Chadli, 27, initially impressed after joining from Tottenham Hotspur last summer with the Belgian international scoring four goals in his first five PL games for the Baggies. He then struggled with an injury in November and scored just one more goal in 2016-17 following his initial flurry.

Pulis is not a man who will have taken kindly to having his preseason preparations questioned but the report states that he and Chadli ended the “heated” discussion amicably enough.

You can call Pulis many things, but unprepared isn’t one of them.

West Brom lost the least days to injury in the PL last season and have gone on a similar trip to the Alps in each of the three seasons Pulis has been in charge with hill runs and 5 a.m. wake up calls the norm. Pulis is renowned for his attention to detail and that’s backed up by his team scoring the most goals from set-piece situations last season, and although they dropped off drastically in the second half of the season he managed to get the best out of the players at his disposal.

This is maybe Pulis’ way of making all of his players aware that the end of last season was not acceptable and it won’t happen again.

Making an example of arguably his most-talented player proves that Pulis isn’t here to mess around. We all knew that anyway. Apparently Chadli didn’t.

Palace and West Brom: Knowing when to cut ties

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This one’s for two chairmen, Steve Parish of Crystal Palace and John Williams of West Bromwich Albion, if anyone’s passing along advice from a writer with exactly zero Premier League experience.

There’s a temptation to leave well enough alone with managers, an allure made only more seductive by the fact that coaching stability is almost contrarian in the high-turnover world of the Premier League.

And if you’re goal is to just survive every year, then by all means, read no further. You have your men in Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce.

Before we go any further, let’s admit to some prejudices. Pulis’ management preference to often bunker down and strip attacking talents of freedom, at least on the surface, is far from alluring and doesn’t quite fit the expectations of West Brom. And Allardyce is Allardyce, a blustery, credit-claiming boss who’s prime claim  is “I keep ’em up.”

But even beyond that, there’s a question whether either can change aims with so many years of the same anthems.

Pulis’ stingy teams have done relatively well, no doubt, and in no way is he a bad hire for a team with a vacant manager’s chair. But what happened for a second-straight season at the Hawthorns should be unacceptable, especially considering that this season saw a ship chartered toward high success.

When the Baggies clinched safety in 2015-16 only to fall flatter than Saido Berahino‘s West Brom career, it was forgivable. The Baggies hit the 39-point mark with a memorable win over Manchester United, then managed just four points over their last nine matches. That included home losses to Norwich City and Watford.

But critics — myself included — were eating their words when Pulis had West Brom dancing in the Top Ten deep into the 2016-17 season. These weren’t 1-0 counterattacking snoozefests, either, as Pulis was producing goals. Yet what happened when the Baggies hit their vaunted 40-point mark, this time on Feb. 25? One more win the rest of the way, to go with nine losses and two draws.

Here’s what Pulis said after a couple losses, “Complacency is the most annoying word in the dictionary. It is human nature to switch off a bit sometime.”

Sure, but how can it surprise when your mantra from August on is seemingly, “Get 40 points.” Staying switched on when you’ve targeted 40 like it’s the Champions League group stage is tough.

Still, that’s nothing compared to Allardyce, and Parish would be wise to leap at Big Sam’s latest big threats of quitting Palace. Forget that he was hired anywhere after his embarrassing ouster from the England job for a second, and focus on this:

Allardyce took over from Alan Pardew, and Palace slipped into the drop zone. Palace had done a woeful job of recruitment in the summer and Pardew overly complicated his problems by refusing to consistently plug service machines Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha into the mix with Christian Benteke.

Allardyce did fix that, but if he deserves anything it’s for striking it rich on three terrific transfer buys in Luka Milivojevic, Mamadou Sakho, and Patrick Van Aanholt. Spending in January is as important as it’s ever been, and Allardyce had more tools in his shed than Pardew or even Pulis beforehand.

Which is to say that if Palace likes Allardyce, fine, but to credit him for this turnaround is only partially worthwhile. To expect him to suddenly become or surprass the man who thrived at Bolton between 1999-2007 is foolish. Almost all of his career nods that don’t involve “avoided relegation” come at levels outside the Premier League, and Palace wants to keep growing.

Back to Pulis, he’s again highlighting the need for West Brom to spend, and perhaps that would allow him to adjust his mentality in the run-up to next season (You’d like to think he’d at least target a Cup run).

What’s worth saying is not that Palace and West Brom should fire their bosses. In Pulis’ case, let’s see if spending can change his stripes a bit (although it should be noted they’ve purchased Nacer Chadli, Matty Phillips, and Salomon Rondon). In Allardyce’s case, it’s a matter of employing a man who’s only out for his reputation and is either going to succeed and claim it was all his genius, or fail and put it on the players or board.

Aren’t there better options?