Tottenham Hotspur 2 West Brom 0
Any hope that Albion had of getting anything from their latest trip to north London probably evaporated once Harry Kane’s name surprisingly appeared in José Mourinho’s starting line-up. The man who had scored eight goals in his eight games against Albion inevitably made it nine in nine as the Baggies slumped to their fifteenth defeat of the season.
If Kane’s inclusion was a surprise, Pereira’s omission from the eleven that Allardyce named was staggering. There are rumours that the Brazilian wasn’t best pleased and it is no surprise given that it came after he was nominated for the Premier League Player of the Month award for January with no other player having scored more goals in the division since the turn of the year.
Given the formation that Big Sam picked, it is understandable that he was omitted, but surely you pick a formation to get the most out of your best players? It’s not like Albion have a bevy of star players that are all vying to get in the team!
To me, it looked as if the formation was devised to accommodate Ainsley Maitland-Niles in midfield rather that for the good of the team. There were suggestions that AMN had been promised his preferred midfield berth to persuade him to come to the Hawthorns, but now he is here, he should be playing where he is most needed – for me, that is right back where Lee Peltier was the latest to fall short in Allardyce’s tenure. To sacrifice Albion’s most in-form player to keep a promise to a loan player is just ridiculous. Furthermore, if AMN is hoping to get a place in the England squad, he must surely realise that he won’t be amongst the midfielders!
When Pereira did come on, he immediately worked some magic to set up Diagne to score, only for him to have a second goal ruled out for off side. Unfortunately, his introduction was 79 minutes too late.
Ultimately, what did we learn from Allardyce’s latest experiment? Well, nothing. We confirmed that Sawyers is not a defensive midfielder and we can only hope that Okay Yokuşlu’s arrival will mean that it is the last time we see him in that position this season. It was Sawyers who was probably most at fault for Kane’s opener, but you have to wonder was Ajayi and Peltier were doing as well – the defenders should know where the opponents’ most dangerous player is at all times! The guy is good, but he is not invisible.
We also confirmed that Albion are capable of defending well for long periods, but not for 90 minutes. We’ve seen individual lapses costing goals time and again, and I’m sure Allardyce is getting fed up saying it in his post match interviews, but whatever he is doing to drill these players isn’t working. The lack of quality in the squad and the COVID restrictions in training offer some mitigation, but the results speak for themselves.
The fact is that Allardyce has not had any sort of positive impact and we are now eleven games into his tenure. In the thirteen Premier League games under Bilić, Albion averages 0.54 points per game, 0.77 goals scored per game and 2.0 goals conceded – in the ten league games under Big Sam, the equivalents are 0.5, 0.8 and 2.8. That last statistic is perhaps the most damning.
Having said that, I can’t see Allardyce being shown the door any time soon. First of all, it would only seem fair to give the January signings a chance to make an impact, even though it is likely to be too late, but more importantly, will the owners see any sense in doing it?
Sacking Allardyce will cost them money, or at least it won’t save them any, and it would also be an admission that they got his appointment wrong. They will also consider the possibility that he will walk to preserve his “never been relegated” record, in which case it will cost them nothing. Another key factor is who would take over. The expectation would be that Big Sam’s “boys”, Sammy Lee and Robbie Stockdale, would go as well leaving James Morrison as the only remaining first team coach, a guy with less than 18 months’ coaching experience and less than three months with the first team. And who else would be willing to come in to notch up an inevitable relegation on their record?
It is an unenviable situation for the owners, but it is one entirely of their own making following a series of disastrous decisions under their stewardship. It may be a long shot, but the only positive ending for the owners is for Allardyce to keep us up, so they are likely to stick with him.
And so we go on with ever diminishing hope.