West Bromwich Albion kick off the New Year with a trip to the London Stadium in the hope that 2018 will be a lot better than 2017 eventually turned out. It is a massive game for both clubs with Albion just one place and two points behind West Ham.
Albion finished off 2016 with a win at Southampton thanks to a wonder goal by Hal Robson-Kanu. That result left the Baggies in 8th place with 26 points from 19 games. I said in my preview to the Sunderland game in January last year that they could reach 40 points by the end of February, what would be a remarkable achievement, and they did just that. And then stopped.
The late season collapse could be put down to many things, the small squad, bad luck, the players and/or head coach downing tools, etc., but given what happened at the beginning of this season, hindsight would suggest that maybe Pulis was part of the problem. It may seem easy to say that now, but I said it back in May when I thought it was clear that we needed a change.
Pulis is a firefighter and at both Stoke City and the Hawthorns, he has failed to take a club to the next level. The hierarchy at Stoke had the foresight to make a change in the summer, something John Williams and the rest of the Albion decision-makers should have done, and, while the Pulis’s replacement at the Bet365 doesn’t seem to have been successful at that aim and may, himself, be close to the sack, that was three-and-a-half years ago and Hughes did get Stoke into the top ten, something Pulis never managed.
At this stage, there is little point in going over old ground. Decisions have been taken and the West Bromwich Albion board now have the opportunity to make up for the mistakes of last summer and give their new man some backing in January.
There have been noises that Albion need to sell before they can buy, and we all know that value is January is not that great, but the squad is in desperate need of new blood. The “sell before we buy” argument seems a false one to me. We spent around £35m in the summer, about a third of a year’s worth of TV income, and while the wage bill is high, I can’t believe that FFP is that much of a danger, especially when it is calculated over three years. It does seem that Kyrchowiak could well leave to take a huge number off the wage bill for the remainder of the season, so hopefully that would ease things, but Albion need to act quickly – at least one striker and a number ten are essential, and with Rondón, Morrison and Chadli injured, we cannot afford to wait until late in the window.
Turning towards the game on Tuesday evening, Albion will have received a confidence boost from the late equaliser against Arsenal, and maybe the feeling that the luck is starting to turn. Not much has gone in our favour this season and, while the Baggies definitely deserved a point from the game, the award of the penalty was a little fortunate.
The game did highlight the lack of attacking options for Pardew, however, with Kyrchowiak, McClean and Nyom his chosen substitutions. While resting Robson-Kanu and Brunt might be wise given the fact that this match was only two days away, the fact that he chose to ignore Oliver Burke as an option suggests that either he doesn’t trust Burke or he was looking to protect the point. If it was a defensive ploy, that failed as it was McClean’s intervention in the wall that ultimately led to the Arsenal goal, but there was a definitive lack of other options for Pardew, other than Burke.
That is unlikely to change for the trip to east London as Pardew will have the same players available. Nyom and Evans both picked up their fifth suspensions of the season on Sunday but the suspension cut off was 19 league games so they will be available on Tuesday.
Ah yes, Tuesday. If Albion are to end their winless run at the London Stadium, they will also end another unwanted record of never having won a Premier League game on a Tuesday. Let’s not forget that they have never lost a game at the London Stadium, of course, albeit they’ve player there just the once. Gareth McAuley’s 94th minute equaliser last season was the fourth time in succession that Albion have drawn at West Ham’s home, but their last victory at the Hammers was back in 2003, that remarkable 4-3 game, and their only win at West Ham in the Premier League was back in 2002.
The hosts had a mini-revival although it took five games before David Moyes registered his first win as Hammers’ boss. That was an impressive 1-0 win over Chelsea which was followed by a 0-0 draw at Arsenal and a 3-0 win at struggling Stoke City. West Ham then lost 1-0 to Arsenal in the Carabao Cup before losing 3-2 at home to Newcastle. Last time out, they drew 3-3 at Bournemouth despite taking a last minute lead.
That was on Boxing Day, so they will have had four days more rest than the Baggies after their scheduled match with Spurs was moved to Thursday this week. But then we don’t want to mimic Arsène Wenger by complaining about the impact of match scheduling, do we??
This is a proper six-pointer with West Ham able to move up to 15th with a win, while Albion could move out of the bottom three depending on other results. It will be a tight game and I think it will finish all square.
|West Ham United||W||D||W||L||L||D|
All competitions; most recent game on the right
16 Sep 2017 – Premier League
West Brom 0
West Ham United 0
Last meeting at West Ham United
11 Feb 2017 – Premier League
West Ham United 2 (Feghouli, Lanzini)
West Brom 2 (Chadli, McAuley)
17 Sep 2016 – Premier League
West Brom 4 (Chadli (2, 1 pen), Rondón, McLean)
West Ham United 2 (Antonio, Lazini (pen))
Last win at West Ham United
8 Nov 2003 – League Division 1
West Ham United 3 (Defoe, Deane (2))
West Brom 4 (Hulse (2), Deane (o.g.), Hughes)
Albion’s Record against West Ham United
|Premier League Record|