Has the Premier League grown too sophisticated for Tony Pulis?

(Warning: Story contains coarse language)

When Tony Pulis swished and squeaked his way to the Hawthorns’ home dressing room on Saturday, the tracksuit-swamped gaffer may have wondered whether it was the last time he would do so.

West Bromwich Albion had been smashed. Chelsea netted four unanswered goals past a side that next travels to Tottenham Hotspur. Baggies owner Guochuan Lai, attending a home match for the first time in six weeks, didn’t have to ask for a second opinion: “Tony Pulis, your football is shit,” rang one of a series of chants calling for the Welshman’s head, as The Observer’s Stuart James relayed.

“I spoke to the owners yesterday,” Pulis told Reuters after the match. “They are really decent people. It’s not about them, it’s about what’s best for the football club. That is more important than anybody. It’s a decision they have to make. I’ll keep ploughing along if they want me to.

“In any job, if it doesn’t go well, you will be under pressure. We have left a lot of points on the pitch this season.”

There is something endearing about Pulis. The cliches he barks from the touchline and his school-caretaker threads provide a rather homely, Sunday League feel. His ability to draw the best out of workmanlike footballers – 37-year-old Gareth McAuley and former Radcliffe Borough defender Craig Dawson spring to mind – in simple systems is just a grainy TV picture, scraggly mullet, and brutal challenge on a goalkeeper short of being quintessential 1980s football. For those who moan about the money and overexposure of today’s game, the Baggies should be an antidote.

But it’s not working. No top-tier team has smashed more inaccurate long balls than West Brom (a huge 42.7 long balls per 90 minutes) and it sits last for possession and short passes attempted in the division. Only Swansea City bangs less shots. It’s completely uninspired, and things have moved on.

Brighton & Hove Albion has profited from the vision of creative spark Pascal Gross, while Huddersfield Town is another advocate of the pressing game. The newly promoted duo are in the top half of the table thanks to their openness to tactical versatility and progression, while conservative West Brom is gingerly “ploughing along” in 17th. The Baggies haven’t won a Premier League game since mid-August.

(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

Jamie Carragher’s column for The Telegraph ahead of the weekend’s fixtures hailed Pep Guardiola’s impact at Manchester City, and his description of the dreary tactics that have plagued some matches could’ve been taken straight from Pulis’ notepad:

Why would any neutral want Guardiola to fail and feel compelled to embrace less purist tactics? What kind of football do we want?

English football will benefit if Guardiola’s way works. He can show others an idealistic, technical brand of passing football works. So many games follow the same formula, coaches believing defending is about allowing opponents to keep possession while they sit deep. We sit through a lot of boring, predictable games.

Pulis’ designs are rife with boredom and predictability, and when his defence has ceased to meet his favoured blend of congestion and organisation, what really is the point?

The Wales job is vacant, and following the spate of 0-0 scorelines during the final round of World Cup qualifiers, it appears to be Pulis’ calling. The Premier League has progressed. Two walls of average footballers jammed in front of an 18-yard box doesn’t satisfy the high-paying fans’ demand for entertainment, nor does it hold the key for top-flight success.

This content was kindly provided by TheScore.com

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