AFTER nearly a fortnight off, the return of European football after its winter break and one of the most dramatic FA Cup shocks of recent times, the Premier League returns this weekend.
The headline game is on Sunday as Manchester United face Chelsea, but before that PREMIER LEAGUE WEEKLY looks at whether West Brom can escape their predicament at the bottom an contender for Player of the Season.
Can Pardew and West Brom produce the Great Escape part 2?
THERE are bad weeks and then there are bad weeks. Consider this for West Brom. Monday night – lose 3-0 at Chelsea to be bottom of the Premier League and seven points from safety. Tuesday – the Chairman and Chief Executive are sacked. Friday – news emerges of four players ‘borrowing’ a taxi at 5.30am during a club trip to Barcelona. Saturday – a 2-1 defeat to Southampton knocks them out of the FA Cup.
Now the last few days have been a bit calmer after that tumultuous week, but they needed to be. However, it does not mean the heat has gone away from manager Alan Pardew – not a bit of it. He heads into tomorrow’s game against Huddersfield at The Hawthorns knowing his team must win for a variety of reasons.
First of all, a win over the team in 17th place is essential to keep alive realistic survival hopes. Huddersfield have only won twice away from home all season and have not scored in ten of their 13 games on the road, so this is a huge opportunity for the Baggies, which must be taken.
With only one victory from his 13 league games in charge, Pardew has done little so far to persuade Chinese owner Guochuan Lai that he is the man best equipped to keep the Baggies in the Premier League. One or two more bad results and the owner may decide to make a last gasp roll of the dice and change manager again as a last resort.
Then there is the responsibility of the players and especially the ‘Barcelona Four’ (Gareth Barry, Jonny Evans, Jake Livermore and Boaz Myhill). They have a duty to try and regain the respect of the supporters and show their commitment to the cause at The Hawthorns. Some former players have suggested that the players’ behaviour in Spain showed a blatant lack of respect towards their manager, so now they must show they are fully behind Pardew with some inspired performances.
Under Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis, West Brom were a stable Premier League outfit, not very exciting, but guaranteed to stay up. Pulis’ relationship with the supporters eventually broke down and now the club faces a desperate battle to preserve top flight status for a ninth straight season. But for those of a West Brom persuasion needing a little bit of optimism, here it is. In 2004/05, after the same number of games, Bryan Robson’s team had two points fewer than the current total of 20, but pulled off their Great Escape with a final day victory over Portsmouth. Can Pardew and the class of 2018 do something similar?
Stat of the Day
0.7 – THE points per game record of Alan Pardew from his last 50 games as a Premier League manager dating back to December 2015.
Is Salah the bargain signing of modern football?
CONSIDER this question for a moment. Obviously, £37 million is far from cheap but when Liverpool paid that to Roma last summer, I’m not sure even the most ardent Reds supporter could have expected Mohamed Salah to create such a stir in English football.
With a third of the season to go, Salah has already scored 30 goals for the season, including 22 in the Premier League and only Tottenham’s Harry Kane has scored more. The Egyptian has created a reputation for himself where you expect him to score every game. He has made goals for himself as he showed recently against Spurs and supplied them for others with nine assists this season.
Let’s go back to that £37 million transfer fee. Manchester City paid more than that for two full-backs. Manchester United paid nearly £40 million more for Romelu Lukaku up front and had shelled out £50 million extra on Paul Pogba, while Alvaro Morata was nearly double the cost of Salah for Chelsea. And remember, this was before Neymar’s £200 million move to Paris St Germain when the market really went crazy.
Imagine if Salah was available this summer on the open market. Liverpool would be demanding at least the same as the £142 million Barcelona spent to bring Philippe Coutinho over from Anfield, if not more. Salah’s performances have meant Coutinho has not been missed too much so far, and if anything the Egyptian was signed last summer knowing that the Brazilian might well leave for Spain at some point.
As he lines up to face West Ham tomorrow, Salah could propel Liverpool into second place with a win and they are all but guaranteed a place in the last eight of the Champions League after their 5-0 win in Porto in the first leg. With a World Cup to come in the summer with his country, Salah could go to Russia as a Golden Boot winner and even with a European Cup winner’s medal in his pocket.
Roma’s sporting director Monchi, the man behind the years of success at Sevilla and a master in the transfer market, knew that Liverpool were getting a bargain last summer and now the rest of football is seeing that the Spaniard was absolutely correct.
Adam’s Saturday Scores
Leicester 3 Stoke 1
Bournemouth 1 Newcastle 1
Brighton 2 Swansea 1
Burnley 1 Southampton 0
Liverpool 4 West Ham 1
West Brom 2 Huddersfield 0
Watford 1 Everton 1
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe