Albion secured their fortieth point at the Stadium of Light last Saturday ahead of a tough run of fixtures in which they play three of the top four in their next four games. The first of those comes in the televised fixture on Saturday evening at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium.
While Pulis, at least, considered last weekend’s result as somewhat of a milestone, the manner in which it was achieved was certainly uninspiring. For the seventh time this season, and the fourth time this year, Albion failed to register a shot on target. What is more depressing is that those four games this season were against the bottom four in the Premier League, games that produced just two points for the Baggies, both of which could be described as fortunate.
The one faintly bright of the afternoon for Albion fans was a first Premier League appearance for 16-year-old, Jonathan Leko, the first Premier League player to be born in 1999, and Pulis has since hinted that he may not be the last youngster to be blooded before the season draws to a close. Most football fans like to see their youngsters coming through, and the Albion manager has suggested that the current crop at the Hawthorns are the most talented group he has come across. With three of the Baggies’ remaining seven games on television, some youngsters may get the opportunity to impress a much larger audience than normal.
Other reports this week indicate that Tony Pulis is to hold talks this summer on a contract extension, a report that will send shivers down the spine of many of the Hawthorns faithful, but one that was coupled with a suggestion that the Welshman has taken some of the criticism he has received this season to heart and is planning to make signings to improve Albion’s attacking prowess. Whether that is just a line fed to the media to make a decision to extend his stay more palatable, or if there is a genuine desire to change his style, only time will tell.
It was encouraging to hear Pulis identify the transition from defence to attack as one of Albion’s key failings this season, but all the more puzzling as to why he hasn’t done anything about it sooner and has continually failed to play with enough pace in the side to enable quicker breaks. I guess he doesn’t rate too many of the pacey players there are in the squad, so assuming he is to stay at the Hawthorns, we will all watch his transfer business with interest.
As for this weekend’s game, I would hope that reaching the 40-point barrier will allow Pulis to release the shackles a little. Manchester City may well be focussed on next week’s return match against PSG in the Champions League, but with the other Manchester club just one point behind them in the race for fourth place, they cannot afford to be complacent. Some of Albion’s better performances have come against the top clubs this season, although not many have brought good results. The draws at Chelsea and Leicester were certainly amongst Albion’s more impressive displays since the turn of the year, and another point at the Etihad would certainly be welcome.
Albion have not left the Etihad with anything for over ten years since a 0-0 draw in 2005, with their only point won against Manchester City in their last twelve Premier League encounters coming at the Hawthorns on Boxing Day 2011. Victory at Eastlands has so far evaded the Baggies with their only win in the Premier League coming in their last visit to Maine Road in 2003 thanks to a rare goal from Big Dave.
Albion’s biggest win away to Manchester City came back in 1934 when the legendary Ginger Richardson scored a hat-trick in a 7-2 win at Maine Road, while City’s biggest win in this fixture came just four years later when Eric Brook scored four goals, including two penalties, in a 7-1 win.
One of the most entertaining games between the sides in recent years came at the City of Manchester Stadium back in 2009 when Albion came back from 2-0 down (Robinho and Onuoha) to level at 2-2 thanks to a brace from Chris Brunt, only for the hosts to score twice more through Elano (penalty) and Sturridge to take the points.
Albion last league win over City came at the Hawthorns in December 2008 when Roman Bednar’s injury time goal proved decisive after an own goal by Scott Carson had cancelled out Luke Moore’s opener.
City will be without captain, Vincent Kompany, and Raheem Sterling and, while there is a chance that Yaya Touré will be fit, Pellegrini may not risk him ahead of the second leg of the Champions League quarter final.
Chris Brunt will not return this season, but there is a chance that both James Morrison and Callum McManaman could be fit this weekend as both have returned to training, with McManaman playing an hour in the victory over Aston Villa in the Under-21 game on Tuesday, before being sent off for two bookable offences.
It remains to be seen whether Stéphane Sessègnon will be considered having been left out of the squad last weekend following his late return from the international break.
Pulis has been so transfixed by the 40-point target that I think we will see a different Albion side this weekend. After safety was secured last season, Albion trounced Chelsea 3-0 with the pressure off, and while I don’t expect that sort of result this weekend, I can see Albion scraping a point as City’s attentions are fixed on Tuesday’s visit of Zlatan and friends.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
10 Aug 2015 – Premier League
West Brom 0
Manchester City 3 (Touré (2), Kompany)
Last meeting at Manchester City
21 Mar 2015 – Premier League
Manchester City 3 (Bony, Fernando, Silva)
West Brom 0
22 Sep 2010 – League Cup 3rd Round
West Brom 2 (Zuiverloon, Cox)
Manchester City 1 (Jo)
Last win at Manchester City
1 Feb 2003 – Premier League
Manchester City 1 (Gilchrist (o.g.))
West Brom 2 (Clement, Moore)
Albion’s Record against Manchester City
|Premier League Record|