West Bromwich Albion: Tony Pulis’s survival blueprint faces upgrade

Tony Pulis manager of West Bromwich Albion during the pre season friendly match against Port Vale at Vale Park on August 1, 2017 in Burslem, England.

Star man: It’s probably not a brilliant sign when a team’s best player is their goalkeeper, but it does at least give a feeling of security, like a warm blanket.

On the pitch

Ben Foster has been player of the year in three of his six years at the Hawthorns, which might be partly down to his excellence, or the lack of anything especially inspiring in front of him.

Biggest summer buy: Jay Rodriguez arrived from Southampton for £12m, one of a certain clutch of players about whom one thinks: “Hasn’t he already played for West Brom? No? Huh.” Beyond that transfer pickings have been quite slim, leading to Tony Pulis wearing an even grimmer facial expression than usual.

Breakthrough season: Pulis isn’t known for his commitment to youth but last season he described the 19-year-old midfielder Sam Field as being “as good and as gifted as any footballer I’ve seen at that age”. Young Field may play a big role and as a bonus is a dream for lovers of puns.

Bad boy: Here’s a possibly surprising fun fact: West Brom didn’t get a single red card last season. Nevertheless, it would be a brave soul who challenged Claudio Yacob to a duel, and James McClean isn’t to be messed with either.

Boo boy: Nacer Chadli’s “give a stuff” levels seemed to drop in the second half of last season, while McClean will get it in the neck around 11 November for his perfectly understandable stance on poppies. But if Pulis’s whole “reach 40 points then the team falls off a cliff” tendency isn’t solved, the boo boy might be the manager.

Destination Russia: Salomón Rondón’s Venezuela have already been eliminated from qualification, it’s touch and go for some of the home nations and Allan Nyom isn’t a shoo-in for Cameroon. Their sole representative might be Ahmed Hegazy, an Egyptian defender on loan from al-Ahly.

Glass half-full: Albion manage to sort out the Pulis problem of surviving but little more, inject a little bit of pizzazz into their team, challenge for European competition and maybe have a run at a cup, too.

Glass half-empty: Pulis has a tantrum and leaves, they lose the solidity that made them certainties to stay up and their ultimately quite limited squad ends up floundering somewhere near the bottom three.

Off the pitch

The manager: In an uncertain world, the solidity and predictability of Pulis is quite comforting. He will get you to the magical, mythical, marvellous total of 40 points, but then do very little else. Consistently baseball-capped, trainers always shiny, he will never sit down when it’s possible to stand.

The owners: Last summer West Brom became the latest team to be bought by Chinese investors, namely the snappily named Yunyi Guokai (Shanghai) Sports Development Limited. Their chairman is Guochuan Lai, who made billions in the plant business. That’s things that grow, rather than digging equipment. Make your own jokes there.

Richard Jefferson’s fan’s view: As things stand, it’s hard to see anything but a hard season and potential trouble. Once again we’re leaving it very late in the window – there are huge holes in the squad to be filled. The natives are restless. Prediction: 17th. Follow Richard @richbaggie

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Nick Miller, for The Guardian on Friday 11th August 2017 12.00 Europe/London

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