Tony Pulis

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Managerial change a slippery slope for West Brom

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Tony Pulis brought much needed stability to West Bromwich Albion before his tenure soured in a hurry.

When Pulis took over at the Hawthorns, West Brom had seen both Pepe Mel and Alan Irvine do little winning in abbreviated managerial stints. Mel won three of 17 matches in charge, while Irvine could only nab five in 22.

[ MORE: Pulis sacked ]

So there is little debating, even for those who West Brom fans who revel in the club’s former free-flowing ways, that Pulis had a productive time in charge from January 2015 right on through most of last season.

But Pulis was seemingly limited to setting a points total and then kicking his heels up once Premier League safety was reached.

While that sounds a bit laughable, the facts are that the Baggies finished 10th last season despite an impressive start that saw the club comfortably eighth for much of the season. However, West Brom won five points from its final 12 matches to finish 16 points behind a European place (including five shutout losses at home).

The Baggies finished 14th the previous season, Pulis’ first full year in charge, but collapsed again after hitting the rarefied air of 11th. That final stretch? Five losses and four draws including shutout losses at home to Norwich City, Watford, and West Ham.

In doing so, Pulis belied his own budgetary critiques by proving the Baggies had the talent to compete for something relatively special.

Pulis was good at getting his side to play with the fury of a relegation contender from Day One, but it was so clear the side was sated once safety was secure. It wouldn’t be callous to opine that the manager would’ve viewed the Europa League as a nuisance to his “never been relegated” reputation (an idea buttressed by West Brom’s performances in Cup competitions, where Pulis never advanced to a quarterfinal while losing to Reading, Norwich City, Derby County, Northampton Town, and, this season, Man City).

What West Brom does next will say a lot. If it’s as simple as a rehashing of the “never been relegated” deck with Sam Allardyce, well, that’s something. But the Baggies are in the tricky predicament of having to replace a relatively stable hand who was their first good hire in three tries, while also running with the knowledge that their players clearly are capable of so much better than 17th.

The names on the bettor’s lists show what’s expected of West Brom: gritty style from an island manager. Derek McInnes is the favorite, with Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill just ahead of Sam Allardyce. Alan Pardew is next, followed by Ronald Koeman (For what it’s worth, bookies are still milking money from gamblers by including Jurgen Klinsmann’s name at 20:1 or so).

West Brom is in its eighth-straight Premier League campaign. The firing will jostle an already rocking ship, but the Baggies have steady leadership in Jonny Evans, Ben Foster, Chris Brunt, Gareth Barry, Gareth McAuley, and Craig Dawson. They have the wherewithal to achieve safety again, and can even look good in the process should a manager find the right way to use Salomon Rondon, Matty Phillips, Jay Rodriguez, Nacer Chadli, and others.

Who’s the right man for the job?

West Brom fires manager Tony Pulis

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Tony Pulis‘ reign over the Hawthorns is over, as West Bromwich Albion has fired the 59-year-old after just under three years in charge of the Premier League outfit.

Assistant coach Gary Megson takes over on an interim basis.

[ MLS: Steve Bruce to Miami? ]

The Baggies have not won a game since August, and were belted 4-0 at home by Chelsea on Saturday to leave the club one point above the drop zone.

Overall, Pulis oversaw wins in just 36 of his 121 matches, losing 49, in what will go down as one of the least successful stints in his well-traveled career. Only three PL clubs have scored less than the Baggies’ nine goals.

Here’s the club statement:

“These decisions are never taken lightly but always in the interests of the Club.

“We are in a results business and over the back end of last season and this season to date, ours have been very disappointing.

“We would like to place on record our appreciation of Tony’s contribution and hard work during a period of transition for the Club which included a change of ownership. We wish him well in his future endeavours.”

Pulis will almost certainly be back on the touch line soon, as he hasn’t spent more than a few months out of work since 2002.

Antonio Conte calls Tony Pulis a “really good manager”

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West Brom, after four straight defeats, sits 17th in the Premier League table, most recently suffering a 4-0 dismantling at the hands of Chelsea.

Yet Blues boss Antonio Conte has offered his counterpart an olive branch, supporting his fellow Premier League manager at a time of panic.

With reports that Pulis could be fired this coming week – some say as early as Monday – the Baggies boss is under heaps of pressure, but Conte doesn’t believe he should be. “I must be honest, I think Tony Pulis is a really good manager,” Conte said, hoping those in charge don’t make decisions based on Sunday’s result.

“He has great experience and it’s always very difficult to play against his team. This game became easy because we started very strong, with great concentration and desire to win. We showed from the start our will to win this game. But I repeat: Last season we struggled a lot against them.”

West Brom has lost four in a row in league play, and they haven’t picked up a win since August, and as The Guardian points out, they have the lowest average possession in the Premier League and have the second-lowest shots on target thus far. They registered just two shots on target against Chelsea, and held 39% possession, which is actually slightly above their average for the season.

Premier League roundup: Managers under fire

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Before Saturday’s Premier League action, we had already seen Ronald Koeman, Frank De Boer, and Craig Shakespeare fired from managerial posts claimed before the season’s start.

[ MORE: Pulisic pulls nasty move in Der Klassiker loss ]

Several others will be feeling serious heat following home losses on Saturday, as Slaven Bilic‘s West Ham was smoked by Liverpool, Paul Clement and Swansea lost to Brighton, and Southampton’s Mauricio Pellegrino slumped a shutout loss versus Burnley.

West Brom’s Tony Pulis limped through a loss at Huddersfield Town, but the location won’t likely soothe the fury of Baggies’ fans, who already prefer their club play free-flowing almost regardless of results.

West Ham United 1-4 LiverpoolRECAP

In a match which, sadly for Slaven Bilic, had a similar feel to Koeman’s last match in charge of Everton, Liverpool ran rampant over the hosts at the London Stadium.

Mohamed Salah scored twice and Joel Matip scored, but the nail in the coffin may have been Liverpool’s third goal, which came within moments of Manuel Lanzini‘s lone marker for West Ham.

Just look at Joe Hart:

Huddersfield Town 1-0 West Bromwich Albion — RECAP

Rajiv Van la Parra‘s remarkable goal from outside the box propelled Huddersfield Town to a long-sought win, and sank Tony Pulis deep into the bad graces of West Brom fans. The Baggies are officially in a relegation scrap.

Newcastle United 0-1 BournemouthRECAP

Rafa Benitez warned that Newcastle would have to deal with a slump at some point this season, though perhaps he didn’t mean, “Hey, boys, lose to Burnley and Bournemouth immediately.” The Magpies wilted after Dwight Gayle‘s seemingly onside goal was ruled off, and the Cherries used a strong second half to pick up a huge win which boosts them outside the drop zone.

Swansea City 0-1 Brighton and Hove AlbionRECAP

Glenn Murray is red hot, as the Seagulls veteran striker scored for the third-straight match to give Chris Hughton‘s men a deserved win on the road and put Paul Clement’s Swans in a bind.

Let’s put it this way:

Southampton 0-1 BurnleyRECAP

Sean Dyche‘s remarkable Burnley tenure may be coming to a close should keep up performances like this (cough, Everton, cough). Sam Vokes scored a goal in what was admittedly a bit of smash-and-grab at St. Mary’s. Is Mauricio Pellegrino in trouble already?

Stoke City 2-2 Leicester CityRECAP

This one snapped to life late in the first half, as Xherdan Shaqiri equalizer after Vicente Iborra nabbed his first Leicester goal. Riyad Mahrez put Leicester back ahead in the second half, but super duper sub Peter Crouch did what Peter Crouch does to earn Mark Hughes‘ men a share of the points.

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Manchester City 10 9 1 0 35 6 29 4-1-0 5-0-0 28
 Manchester United 10 7 2 1 23 4 19 5-0-0 2-2-1 23
 Tottenham Hotspur 10 6 2 2 19 7 12 2-2-1 4-0-1 20
 Chelsea 10 6 1 3 18 10 8 2-1-2 4-0-1 19
 Arsenal 10 6 1 3 19 13 6 5-0-0 1-1-3 19
 Liverpool 11 5 4 2 21 17 4 3-2-0 2-2-2 19
 Burnley 11 5 4 2 10 9 1 2-2-1 3-2-1 19
 Brighton & Hove Albion 11 4 3 4 11 11 0 2-2-1 2-1-3 15
 Watford 10 4 3 3 15 18 -3 1-2-2 3-1-1 15
 Huddersfield Town 11 4 3 4 8 13 -5 3-2-1 1-1-3 15
 Newcastle United 11 4 2 5 10 10 0 3-1-2 1-1-3 14
 Leicester City 11 3 4 4 16 16 0 2-1-2 1-3-2 13
 Southampton 11 3 4 4 9 11 -2 2-2-3 1-2-1 13
 Stoke City 11 3 3 5 13 22 -9 2-2-2 1-1-3 12
 West Bromwich Albion 11 2 4 5 9 14 -5 1-3-1 1-1-4 10
 Bournemouth 11 3 1 7 7 14 -7 1-1-3 2-0-4 10
 West Ham United 11 2 3 6 11 23 -12 2-0-3 0-3-3 9

 Swansea City 11 2 2 7 7 13 -6 1-0-5 1-2-2 8
 Everton 10 2 2 6 7 20 -13 2-0-3 0-2-3 8
 Crystal Palace 10 1 1 8 4 21 -17 1-1-3 0-0-5 4

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.