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Tony Pulis' West Bromwich Albion: The Premier League overachievers

Sunday 4th December 2016
West Bromwich Albion enjoyed a 3-1 win at home to Watford in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon, to go sixth in the table after 14 games.

The Midlands club temporarily leapfrogged Everton and Manchester United in the standings, and find themselves just one place adrift of a Europa League spot after picking up their third win in four games. Albion were criticised after a slow start to the campaign but are now looking on course for their highest ever finish in the division.
Head coach Tony Pulis was seemingly a man under pressure in the autumn with the Baggies having managed just two wins from their first 10 games, but Albion have been ruthless in front of goal and much more resilient at the back which has led to a complete turnaround in form. It's worth noting that Bournemouth are the only side outside the top-eight who have beaten West Brom in the Premier League this season so the club's early season criticism was perhaps premature.

Summer-signing Nacer Chadli and existing duo Matt Phillips and Salomon Rondon have played their part in the club's form this campaign, scoring and creating 19 of Albion's 20 Premier League goals. The experienced Darren Fletcher and Claudio Yacob have provided a shield in front of the back four, and a physical and aerially dominant defence are keeping out most things thrown at them. Last season, West Brom struggled with inconsistency. They stayed up in the top-flight, but ended the campaign with nine games without a win.

Albion managed just five wins from 28 league games between January 13, 2016 and October 29, 2016 so they had a point to prove with the winter fixtures. It's why Pulis found himself under some pressure but the club backed him with a new contract and the promise of extra funds to spend in the January transfer window. Their faith in the experienced manager looks to be paying off with Albion occupying their highest position in the Premier League as they approach the mid-point of the season.

West Brom's best-ever finish in the league was 8th in 2012/13, but the three seasons that followed have seen them averaging a 15th-placed finish with 41 points. However, the Baggies' current points-per-game ratio (1.43) would see them end 2016/17 with 54 points – guaranteeing them at least a top-half finish in every season post-millennium. 54 points would also be a club record but they have achieved nothing yet. Pulis has stated numerous times that he wants to strengthen the side in the transfer window and feels a higher standing in the table will give Albion more pull in the market.

West Brom are an ageing side and struggling with a lack of viable depth as a result. Seven of Albion's 21 players used in the Premier League are 30 or above, while only four players are under the age of 25. It's clear Pulis wants more energy and pace in the side with some youthful exuberance to continue evolving the club in transition, and could well build a legacy at Albion if given the chance.
Crippy Cooke

Crippy is a long-suffering Aston Villa supporter and weekly football accumulator enthusiast.

Stealing a living, the balding 27-year-old boasts a wealth of writing experience - Telegraph, Independent, Huffington Post, Zoo Magazine, Daily Mail, ITV Football, MSN Sport, Yahoo Sport, London 24 and Bleacher Report.


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