Efter den svaga insatsen mot Swansea i måndags är det möjlighet för Liverpool att kliva tillbaka in på segerspåret under lördagskvällen. De som står mellan oss och nästa omgång i FA-cupen är ett annat lag från botten av Premier League, som likt Swansea bytt tränare under säsongen. West Bromwich Albion har bytt Pulis mot Pardew, huruvida det var klokt eller ej och vad det betytt för klubben berättar Sarah(@sarah_WBAx), en av skribenterna på @1878_WBA, i den här omgången av Q&A:
1. You changed manager from Pulis to Pardew a couple of months ago, what are your thoughts on that decision today?
Initially when we decided to sack Tony Pulis I was a little sceptical. Despite his depressing brand of football, he always seemed to get us an important result when we needed it. But by the end of his tenure, not only was the style of play deteroriating, so were the results. It was no secret that a large majority of our supporters wanted Pulis to leave and the fans ultimately got their wish. I must admit, looking at the managers that were available at the time there wasn’t a leading candidate that clearly stood out. Sam Allardyce was suggested along with Derek McInnes but with fans not enjoying the Pulis style of football, Allardyce would have deployed similar tactics whilst McInnes, although he was a fans favourite he lacked the necessary experience we required. Alan Pardew was the most obvious choice we had and despite not having an instant impact, the mood has certainly lifted within the club and our attacking football has improved immeasurably. Still currently in the bottom three but we are now unbeaten in three games which is certainly a step in the right direction.
2. Why do you think WBA are in a relegation battle?
We’ve not scored enough goals. Its as simple as that. With the signing of Jay Rodriguez in the summer along with Salomon Rondon and Hal Robson-Kanu already at the club, we were already short of striking options. Rodriguez has been a fairly good acquisition but he hasn’t yet hit the heights that we expected from our record transfer. Robson-Kanu is by all accounts a Championship striker trialling his hand at a Premier League club with a lack of quality too often rearing its head. In regards to Rondon, his work rate is unquestionable and in recent weeks his hold up play has been much better but his lack of goals is still a worrying concern. Defensively we have been quite solid apart from a few games but if we are to steer ourselves away from the relegation zone our goalscoring need to improve.
3. Tell us a bit about the way you play under Pardew.
Under Pulis we were renowned for our defensive style of play and settling for a draw against the so called ’big’ sides. There is a notable difference that we have seen particularly in our last two games against Brighton and Everton. We were 2-0 up against the newly promoted side but we still carried on attacking and trying to score more goals. Even away at Goodison Park, despite being pegged back to 1-1 midway through the second half we looked the team more likely to win the game. Undoubtedly if this was a Pulis team we’d have bought on three defenders and ’parked the bus’ ensuring we maintained our point. Not only is this a more positive style of play but it also gives more encouragement and excitement to our supporters.
4. What needs to change at WBA to secure a Premier League spot next season?
This January transfer window could prove vital for us. There is constant speculation about the future of Jonny Evans who is by a country mile our best defender when he is on the top of his game. We also need to recruit at least one player to improve our attacking options but its no secret that we need to raise funds for us to be able to do this. Were we to lose Evans without replacing him and not acquiring a striker we would be nigh on certainties to lose our Premier League status but with the right business I don’t believe us staying up solely relies on Evans staying at the Hawthorns. The loss of Morrison and Chadli, two of our experienced creative midfielders has also been a blow to us this season and having those two players return may well be very important to us.
5. Who has been your player of the season so far?
There hasn’t really been a stand out performer this season. If I had to choose someone I’d say Ahmed Hegazi who has had a very good start to the season considering its his first year in English football. He has forged a great partnership with Jonny Evans and performed admirably on many occasions. Kieron Gibbs and Gareth Barry have also had a good first six months with the club with their Premier League experience evidently helping them improve us as a team. We could certainly do with somebody becoming our ’player of the season’ if we are to stay in the division!
6. What are your thoughts on Liverpool this season?
It has been rather a mixed season, there has been the outstanding form of Mohamad Salah but also the disappointing departure of Philippe Coutinho. Results wise has been similar where the game of the season at Anfield against Manchester City was simply breathtaking and could have been the result which saw you push on for a top four place but then it was followed up by a deeply frustrating defeat to bottom of the table Swansea City. I think with the acquisition of Virgil Van Dijk you have enough quality to finish in the top four despite losing Coutinho. A world class goalkeeper should definitely be on the agenda if you are looking for a title challenge next season.
7. What kind of game do you think we will see at Anfield? Will you play your best eleven or rotate?
I do think as we have had a week to prepare and our next league game is at Manchester City in a weeks time we will probably play close to our best team to try and raise the spirits of our supporters this season. Alan Pardew is known for taking the cup competitions seriously, proven when he picked a whole host of star names for the game at Exeter City in the last round. I think it will be a close game as you may rest some of your best players to concentrate on getting in the top four. We will most likely defend for the majority of the game but with our new attacking philosophy I expect us to create some chances but it really depends on what Liverpool team turns up as to what the result will be but I fancy us taking you back to the Hawthorns!