Tony Pulis has been sacked by West Brom – but was it the right call from the club?
A 4-0 defeat to Chelsea at The Hawthorns on Saturday left West Brom fourth from bottom in the Premier League table with just 10 points from their first 12 games.
However, while many Albion supporters will welcome the change there is no doubt the club have taken a risk by ending the tenure of a manager famed for guaranteeing Premier League survival.
Here, we weigh up both sides of the argument and ask you for your verdict…
YES, TIME FOR HIM TO GO
After calling for his dismissal during the 4-0 home defeat to Chelsea on Saturday, West Brom supporters got their wish on Monday morning, when Pulis was sacked by the club’s board. The fans had seen enough of a style of football not only failing to excite but, this season, failing to deliver results as well.
West Brom have won just two Premier League games this season, their opening 1-0 victories over Bournemouth and Burnley at the start of the campaign. Those remain their only wins in the league since they moved beyond the 40-point mark with a 3-1 defeat of Arsenal in mid-March. It adds up to two wins in 21 matches.
That inability to go to the next level – Pulis is yet to surpass 47 points in the Premier League during his managerial career – will have been a concern for the more ambitious Albion fans but the Pulis era has also been uninspiring to watch.
Watch highlights of West Brom 0-4 Chelsea
The stats reflect the team’s struggles: across his time in charge, Pulis has recorded a 29 per cent win rate and averaged less than a goal per game (0.99). This season, West Brom are bottom for possession, second-worst for shots per game, while only Brighton and Swansea have created fewer chances and only Crystal Palace, Swansea and Huddersfield have scored fewer goals. It’s no wonder the natives were restless.
Pulis’ persistence with the defensive three-man midfield of Grzegorz Krychowiak, Gareth Barry and Jake Livermore in front of a back three – whether at home to Chelsea and Man City or away to Huddersfield and Southampton – reflected the manager’s cautious approach and lack of adventure.
Despite twice breaking the club’s transfer record and recruiting the five most expensive purchases in their history, Pulis leaves West Brom in the same position they were in when he took over in January 2015 – one point above the relegation zone.
While the past two-and-a-half seasons have seen mid-table finishes, it was never pretty. And at the end, it became ineffective, too.
Watch Tony Pulis' final post-match interview as West Brom boss. NO, HE DESERVED MORE TIME
“We can never underestimate just how important it is to keep our place in a league that is now the most famous and the most followed in the world. Neither can we underestimate how difficult that is.” Pulis delivered a telling reality check when he signed his second contract extension at West Brom in August of this year.
That was just four months ago but, despite all the talk of stability from Pulis and the club’s chairman John Williams at that announcement, West Brom have taken a risk by axing their manager 12 games into the 2017/18 campaign.
Pulis was shortlisted for manager of the season for his work at the club last year. Defending his record last week he pointed out that 10th place finish – building on 13th and 14th in his previous campaigns – was only the third time the club had finished so high in the Premier League, and just the second occasion since 1967 that they’d been the Midlands’ top club.
Perhaps more importantly, it delivered £119.8m in prize money and TV revenue.
Significantly, Pulis produced those results on a smaller budget than many of his rivals. In fact, a Sky Sports study in late April showed West Brom to have the best points per squad value rate in the division at that time.
At Stoke, Crystal Palace and West Brom, Pulis has a respected track record of keeping clubs at the top table. Indeed, he has never finished a season in charge with fewer than 42 points – a total above the often-referenced safety figure of 40.
At a time when the financial rewards for Premier League presence have never been higher, should his efforts and end-of-season finishes at a club in transition amid ownership changes not have earned him more time?
PHIL THOMPSON’S VERDICT – BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR
“I’m not surprised but I’m disappointed because I always felt he was a good fit for West Brom. I know West Brom fans probably don’t thank him for it but, as Merse was saying on Soccer Saturday, be careful what you wish for. While Tony is what he is, a little bit like Sam Allardyce, knowing how to get a result should never be knocked – particularly at certain clubs. We saw what happened at Sunderland, where a team wanted to play expansive football, it can go pear shaped.
“Listening to Tony after the game which I was covering, when Chelsea were absolutely fantastic, I don’t think it was Saturday’s result that determined it. I think it was just the right time for everybody. Timing is everything in football and maybe Tony will realise he has taken them as far as they can go, and I just hope they did it amicably because they must realise the stability he brought them.”
CHARLIE NICHOLAS’ VERDICT – THE FOOTBALL DIDN’T IMPROVE
“It is a results business and it depends what the club wanted. Pulis has done a great job for what West Brom needed when they got him. The problem has been when they’ve brought in more creative players, such as Nacer Chadli, and made a statement of intent to say they are going to improve their football, the reality is he hasn’t done that, going back to organised football.
“If they’re going for somebody who can bring them exciting football then fair enough and they’re in a very stable position so there will be a queue a mile long for this job. These investors like a name who is going to excite. They’re not playing for survival, they’re playing to entertain, so if that is the line they are going to take then it is no surprise they’ve used this as an opportunity to move on.”