As the 2016/17 Premier League season comes to a close, accolades are dished out for the highest performing footballers and managers alike. There is no doubting Antonio Conte is going to steal the headlines, with the league winner usually taking the manager of the season award however obvious recognition and a case for Tony Pulis must once again be made. Pulis was the winner of the award back in the 2013/14 season where he was phenomenal lifting Crystal Palace up the league. Whether it be the Eagles, Stoke City or West Bromwich Albion there is no denying that the 59 year old has done a brilliant job with the club’s he’s managed in the past 10 years.
The Baggies sit 8th in the Premier League, they’ve never been in danger of flirting with relegation and have occupied the top half all season. So how good of an achievement is that in itself? Well, let’s take a look at West Brom’s last team sheet.
If you told me that this set of players were to be 8th at the start of the season, you would say they have done extremely well and you would also question the quality of the Premier League at the same time. The likes of Matty Philips and Nacer Chadli are talented players but it’s not a team full of genuine ability at all. With Everton looking revitalised and the top six inevitably drifting away, West Brom lead the pack below, and I have to say that pack has been very poor this season but once again full credit must go to the side from the Hawthorns for effectively topping that bunch of sides.
You will struggle to see a more organised side than West Brom, and that is again no surprise to see Pulis mastermind this. That is where his managerial abilities are what make him such an excellent coach, where his competitors fail to get the best out their players in this sense. There is very much a strategy behind everything Pulis has created at West Brom, this is very much his team. They are all big tall players who are willing to fight for the cause, even wingers like McClean, Phillips and Chadli possess height for aerial ability. In fact, my side Watford sold one of our worst performing players last season, Allan Nyom who to be honest struggled to kick the ball straight for large parts of the season. However I believe he’s been a real hit for West Brom, a 6ft 2 right back who’s operated at left back is difficult to beat one v one. In terms of distribution he’s awful but once again Pulis has clearly got the best out of a player by keeping it simple and effective at the back.
This is effectively top management from Pulis, to build a side that can compete using their own strengths. If West Brom were to go toe to toe in a football match with most sides, they would lose more than they win. So Pulis has made sure they can win the percentages where footballing ability isn’t the decisive factor, they will outwork opponents, they will win aerial duels and they will look to take advantage of set pieces where footballing ability is more an even contest. This setup is ugly, there is no doubting Pulis know’s every rule in the book when it comes to winning football matches but it’s what West Brom have to do if they wish to be successful. The signings of Chadli and Rondon show that West Brom are in a progressive state under Pulis, while I remember when results weren’t going well last season, fans wanted his head, that will always be the case when you play unattractive football.
But everything that management should be, Tony Pulis possesses. He gets the best out of his club and for that he has to be considered one of the best in the business.
How highly do you rate Pulis? Let us know in the comments below!