Polarising as ever, the Sam Allardyce West Bromwich Albion side have been mixed, to say the least. They’ve won just three of his 17 games since taking charge at the Hawthorns, drawing five and losing nine. Not great.
These defeats include a catastrophic loss against bottom club Sheffield United. They were outfought and outthought by a team whose fate was already more or less sealed.
As of now, they sit eight points away from safety with eight games to go. Allardyce is known for his great escapes, but this is probably his toughest task to date at West Bromwich Albion.
So far, the evidence of his reign indicates that West Brom’s days in the topflight are numbered. However, before his arrival, they had won just a solitary game. Has Big Sam’s time in Black Country been a low-key success or an unmitigated failure? Let’s take a look.
West Bromwich Albion Sam Allardyce Appointment Could Prove to Be a Success Yet
Issues Within West Brom’s Squad
Before pointing the finger at the manager, the playing staff must be evaluated first. Allardyce can only utilise what is available to him.
West Brom have some talented players in their ranks, but the squad has holes. For starters, the team lacks a discernible goal scorer.
Mbaye Diagne is a useful target man. As a team’s primary goal outlet? Forget about it, his finishing isn’t remotely up to par. He’d be ideal in a two-striker formation alongside a pacey fox in the box, but he doesn’t have this luxury at West Brom.
Likewise, Callum Robinson is energetic and great for putting pressure on players when out of possession. However, his finishing can be genuinely abysmal at times. Five goals from 23 appearances is a poor output (each of them against Chelsea, of all clubs).
This isn’t to say West Brom’s squad is devoid of quality. Behind the back four sits a brilliant keeper – Sam Johnstone. One of the Baggies’ most important players, he’s kept them in an incalculable number of games this year. His communication can be lacking at times and he has mistakes in him, but he excels in every other criteria. It’s good to see him in Gareth Southgate’s mind for the Euros, he completely deserves to be.
Conor Gallagher, on loan from Chelsea, is an energetic midfielder who loves an effort on goal. Such a high work rate is invaluable in the modern game, especially for teams like West Brom who need to fight tooth and nail for all the points they can get. He’s quick and is a decent passer to boot. We’ll definitely see more of this young man as time goes by.
Matheus Pereira has proven to be quite a steal for the Baggies. Voted as their player of the season last year, he’ll no doubt scoop that award again this campaign. He’s creative, has goals in his game and is excellent on the ball. Everything you could want in an attacking midfielder, plus, he’s their top scorer.
Sam Allardyce West Bromwich Albion Tactics
Allardyce’s once cutting-edge managerial philosophies have grown somewhat stale. If his refusal to accept modern concepts, that is what will take West Brom down this season, the blame must be squarely aimed at him.
Allardyce was once credited with bringing modern concepts to the English game, mainly fitness theories from the USA. Now, however, he is drawing close to being given the dreaded label of ‘dinosaur’.
West Bromwich Albion under Sam Allardyce seem averse to playing from the back, preferring the archaic method of lumping it forward. This is a dangerous game to play in modern football, where teams are most vulnerable upon a turnover of possession.
Defensively, West Brom aren’t particularly strong either. They’ve shipped four or more goals on five different occasions this campaign, though they do seem to be getting sturdier every game. One of Allardyce’s key strengths as a coach is defensive organisation, so this is no surprise.
He has generally been at his best utilising robust, physical sides with a creative attacking midfielder for balance. Jay-Jay Okocha at Bolton Wanderers is the standout example of this dichotomy.
His approach has allowed for certain players to thrive – for example, the aforementioned Diagne. He’s not the most gifted player in the squad by any stretch, but Allardyce’s affinity for direct passing allows him to be a real handful for opposition backlines.
Some may scoff at Allardyce’s methods, but they still have a place in today’s football (in moderation).
Evaluating Allardyce at West Brom
Ultimately, Allardyce’s tenure at the Hawthorns will be considered a success if he accomplishes one specific thing – keeping them up. This is what he was brought in to do, therefore he must do it, or face ignominy (and probably the sack).
West Brom have shown signs of improvement recently under Big Sam. However, it is likely too little too late. Their demolition job on Chelsea was certainly impressive, but the chasm between them and safety is very daunting.
West Brom will no doubt give their all in these remaining few games – Allardyce will not let them rest at this stage. While fighting for their Premier League lives, they’ll make for tough opposition against anyone in the league.
One of Allardyce’s key strengths as a coach is his man-management. He knows how to elicit reactions from his players and we will certainly see that in the coming weeks.
The common belief is that Sam Allardyce will not keep West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League – if this occurs, he will have failed. If he succeeds, he’ll go down as perhaps the greatest escape artist in the history of English football.
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