West Brom's half-term report: Not good enough from the Baggies

It’s been all change at The Hawthorns in the first half of the season, but there’s plenty or work to be done for the Baggies to retain their Premier League status.

Here is the assessment as Albion pass the mid-point of the campaign.

How has the manager performed?

Three men have been in the hot-seat already this season, whether permanently or temporarily. Tony Pulis deserves nothing higher than an F on his report card.

Apart from one half against Bournemouth, it was pretty woeful stuff under him and the way he persisted with tactics, formations and personnel that had failed over and over again was infuriating.

Interim boss Gary Megson deserves a B+ for steadying the ship and renewing hope in the fanbase.

He nearly guided the Baggies to a memorable win at Wembley and successfully threw young Sam Field into the team. He only misses out on an A because the Baggies threw away a two-goal lead against Newcastle.

Tony Pulis tried to evolve Albion's style this season, but failed miserably. (AMA)

New man Alan Pardew has certainly improved the performances, if not the results.

Albion are controlling longer and longer periods and creating more from open play, but it’s a results-based business so with two points from a possible six it has to be a C- for him.

However, he does receive a predicted B grade in the summer exams provided he gets external help from those above him in January.

Who’s the star player?

Ahmed Hegazi has been the surprise package of the season and is a regular contender for Albion’s best performer.

But Chris Brunt’s latest renaissance (didn’t we go through this last season too?) should serve as a stark warning to any future Albion boss.

He makes the team tick and after more than 10 years at the club is still the team’s most creative spark. Leave him out at your peril.

Special participation award should go to Kieran Gibbs, who has also been consistently impressive at left-back, but incredibly still hasn’t tasted victory in an Albion shirt.

And teenager Field didn't do anything wrong to be dropped from the team apart from being played out of position.

Alan Pardew has improved the performances, but not the results.

Who must do better?

There are plenty of contenders. The whole forward line have struggled to make an impact, and their deficiencies have been magnified under Pardew because they are no longer feeding off scraps.

Salomon Rondon needs to work on his finishing, Jay Rodriguez has struggled since his £12m move from Southampton, and Hal Robson-Kanu is a hard worker, but ineffective at this level.

Plenty of others have disappointed further back, and there have been patchy performances from too many experienced heads like Jonny Evans, Jake Livermore and, earlier in the season, Gareth Barry.

Record signing Nacer Chadli has been on the treatment table for most of the season and Allan Nyom has struggled in recent weeks.

However, it is Grzegorz Krychowiak – the Paris Saint-Germain star on £108,000-a-week – who has been by far the biggest flop.

Maybe his reputation was impossible to live up to, and yes, he’s shown flashes of potential, but for the most part, he has looked criminally off the pace for this league.

Oliver Burke came with a big price-tag, but the £15m man has been unfortunate with injuries and when he has been available, he's been limited to one start.

Grzegorz Krychowiak, left, has been the biggest flop so far and Chris Brunt, right, has proved himself invaluable once more. (AMA)

What’s been happening in the boardroom?

Probably a lot of swearing, and around November, plenty of brow-furrowing.

Tony Pulis could have maybe gone a game or two earlier, but on the balance of things, chairman John Williams probably timed the sacking about right.

What that has done is open up a gap for technical director Nicky Hammond to step into the limelight.

Pulis had his own scouting network which meant the recruitment chief was somewhat a bit-part player under him, but now he is at the hub of all major decisions.

A long-term friend of Alan Pardew, he was instrumental in getting him the job in the first place.

What must be done next?

Hammond needs to help Pardew find a striker, that much is clear.

Albion’s new boss has got the team playing on the front foot, he’s got the balance between attack and defence right, but he can’t get his team to stick the ball into the net. And that’s pretty important.

Find a finisher in January, and the Baggies will stay up. If they don’t, then it could be curtains and the Championship next season.

Technical director Nick Hammond will have more influence now Alan Pardew is head coach.

Overall assessment

Let’s not beat around the bush, it’s been dreadful at times. The team is currently on a club-record 19 game streak without a win.

Fail to beat Arsenal on New Year’s Eve and they will have gone half of a Premier League season without victory.

It is certainly salvageable, but 15 points from the first 20 games is nowhere near good enough.

Final league prediction: 17th

Half-term report mark: E

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News