Swansea 2 - West Bromwich Albion 1
Albion threw away a first half lead to lose 2-1 at Swansea. The point shared between Bournemouth and Leicester means that the former take ninth place from Albion and push then down into tenth, a disappointing end to the season after spending months in eighth place with the hopes of pushing the 50 point total. The sad thing is that at 1-0 up, they were on target for finishing the season in eighth place, so this performance has cost them 3 to 4 million in prize money.
It's "interesting" to compare our form before and after reaching the 40 point target with our win against Bournemouth back in February (yes, February!):
P W D L F A Pts Pts/game Before 26 11 7 8 36 32 40 1.54 After 12 1 2 9 7 19 5 0.42 Overall 38 12 9 17 43 51 45 1.18
Excluding what, in the context of those last twelve games, can be considered a "freak" result against Arsenal, the After line would look like this:
P W D L F A Pts Pts/game After 11 0 2 9 4 19 2 0.18
So there we have it - a miserable end to a thoroughly miserable final quarter of the season. This was a big game for Pulis and Albion management before their (now) awkward trip to China. A win would have seen us finish eighth and this would have softened the mood considerably. But, as it stands, we have put together a run that's by far the worst in the league and in any other season would spell relegation. TP's familiar refrain that 'the lads have given their all' is troublesome. If he is right then, without wholesale player changes, we are headed for the Championship next season. But is he right? How does a team that was knocking in goals and challenging Everton for seventh spot go sour after reaching the magical (mythical?) 40 point Mark? Surely it is not all down to the absence of Matt Phillips?
I imagine Mr Lai will be asking a few questions in between the hairy crabs and chicken feet;
To use a blackjack analogy, Mr Lai probably feels like he has drawn a ten and a six. Stick or twist?
Probably a typical end to the season that matched our form over the last 10 games.
I wasn't sure about the starting lineup - I was pleased to see Morrison in the team but I couldn't work out how we'd be playing until we kicked off. I was worried he'd be on the right wing but in the end we started with a 3-5-2.
My immediate alarm was our centre midfield - surely we didn't all three of the holders in there. We could've dropped Morrison deeper into one of the roles and played Chadli behind Rondon. We could've put Brunt in there for his passing and played McClean out wide. We could've given Sam Field a go in a deeper role which looks more natural to him.
I thought the change in formation made us more positive though - we still weren't fantastic but we opened well, got numbers forward and created chances, although despite having 3 defensive midfielders on the pitch we were quite open at the back.
The first goal could've gone either way but I thought we just about earned it - another standard set play.
And it wasn't the worst game we've been involved in - we attacked, they attacked, there were chances at both ends.
But gradually I thought Swansea took control a bit and, as the game went on, Clement was bold enough to tweak their tactics and make changes - the only tactical change we seemed to make was to drop back to a 5-3-1-1 and then a 6-3-1. I think anyone who watches us knew that was coming.
The goals we conceded were really poor. They underlined for me why Olsson was still preferred for Dawson right up until the middle of this season as a central replacement for GMac - you have to go and put your head on every first ball. Somehow we need to go and find a 5-10 years younger GMac this Summer. He's done miracles for us this year and we still miss him badly when he doesn't play.
We created chances and we should probably have made better choices in situations. Rondon should've done better for sure, but it was painful to see how many times Livermore got the ball in dangerous areas and didn't know what to do with it - and fluffed his lines or shot badly. He is not in the team for that - play him deeper and put Chadli there!
And Leko getting on for all of 2 minutes of extra time. Thanks Tony. Magic.
Probably like many people I am worried about squad investment in the Summer - both in terms of how much money will be there and how Pulis will spend it.
We seem to be in no-mans-land at the moment. Turgid for most of the time under Pulis but probably safe. Never likely to win a cup. A profitable empty vessel.
Have a great summer everyone.
As an expat visiting the UK, I witnessed Sundays latest debacle with several other hardy souls, a miserable end to a nice weekend.
Albion just about shaded a scrappy 1st half against a very mediocre Swansea side who, despite being on a good run, were there for the taking. But Albion, being on an appalling run, inevitably didn't. The Swans injected some pace into their side and, as Albion have none, the end result imo was inevitable. Rondon could and should have put the game to bed but he appears to be so bereft of confidence is was no surprise when he failed on each occasion. And then Swansea took charge. Albion threw the towel in after the equaliser and it was a surprise for me that we had to wait so long for Lorentes winner. We still had the opportunity to see what Leko could do in added time as Pulis lived up to his promise to use the kids.
So as I trudged back to the car, I listened to fellow Albionites dissecting the game. "Pulis must go", " If Pulis goes next season we'll be relegated", "That team will go down next season", "Rondon couldn't hit a barn door" etc. etc. etc. There are so many questions that need answering. Why have we gone from a decent looking side to a complete pile of crap? Why have we not had a left back since (correct me if I'm mistaken) Paul Robinson? Why do players that initially look very good signings deteriorate rapidly....think Chadli (best footballer at the club?), Berahino who was probably the best natural goalscorer since Bob Taylor. There are other cases but Livermore appears to be going the same way.
The lack of performances since we reached safety has been nothing short of disgraceful. These are professional footballers earning a lot of dough. We know most of them can play, given the chance. So they must take part of the blame. Too many foreigners, too much money etc. etc. No pride in wearing the shirt. Jeff must be turning in his grave most weekends. Oh for the class of '78. Or even Ossie's promotion side. Oh to be entertained.
And so to Pulis. The marmite of football managers if ever there was one. The most negative manager we have had surely at The Hawthorns. A man we despised while he was up the M6. A man who seems to squeeze the footballing ability out of every player, Chadli being the latest. A man who has split support at the Hawthorns, a proven premier league manager who has never been relegated. But the "experts" tell us he has done a wonderful job at little West Bromwich. We did after all finish in the top half of the table, 2 points better of than last season. Progression surely?? Why else would he be in contention for manager of the season.
So what's in store for next season? A left back? Nah, we cant sign Taylor as we might have to pay too much via a tribunal. Nyom will do. But didn't we get 120m from Sky alone? A striker? Maybe, probably Crouch or Walters. Some pace in the side? What's the point if we don't attack, and we can always put 8 behind the ball when we face the likes of Zaha.
So much to look forward to.
New York Baggie:
A special thanks to Brendan Clegg and Kev Buckley for their post match analysis throughout the seasons, a highlight in a an otherwise dull season for sure. Please keep it up!
"Interesting" form statistics indeed in your Summary, but it might be equally interesting to mull over a similar analysis of matches before and after Livermore for some obscure reason became Pulis's blue-eyed boy:
P W D L F A Pts Pts/game Before Livermore 23 9 5 9 31 29 32 1.39 With Livermore 15 3 3 9 12 22 12 0.80
Excluding the "freak" result against Arsenal, the Livermore line would look like this:
P W D L F A Pts Pts/game After 14 2 3 9 9 21 9 0.64
Statistics rarely actually prove anything, but evidence from Match reports, player ratings and my own eyes, added to those statistics seem to add up to a fairly good argument to me. Just get rid of the bugger while he still has some retail value and see the Albion's results improve!
Pulis's season stumbles to an end: defence crumbles near the Mumbles
With results last week seeing both sides assured of safety, the hosts from dropping into the bottom three and the visitors, despite having only one win in eleven, from missing out on a top-half finish no matter how results went elswhere, the away supporters didn't even get to speculate on whether the Albion would be looking to do the Clement family a favour as a kind of thank-you via Paul for all the effort that Neil had put it when being played in nearly every outfield position back in those halcyon days.
Sadly, McAuley had not recovered from his injury and would miss the shackles-off, free-flowing festival of football in the gane that would bring the curtain down on the season but once again, rather than give Albion's academy product, Kane Wilson, a record creating first start in a reshuffled back six, Pulis chose to give Bournemounth loanee Wilson a run out as a third centre-back in a back five, whilst our manager asked Morrison to come in for Chadli and spend a pleasant afternoon in the warm sunshine, thinking about getting up and out of his carefully carefully arranged midfield striped deckchairs so as to support Rondon.
Ten minutes into this Sunday stroll and Brunt's floated delivery towards Rondown saw our striker move well to get between Swansea's center-backs but not get enough power into his header, whilst ten minutes later the Venuzuelan would show equally good movement in running in behind those centre-backs and onto Fletcher's through- ball, although he would only shoot straight at the keeper from the corner of the six-yard-box.
Rondon pulled out wide just after the half-hour mark and, in the absence of any real options, would win a corner as he tried to creeate something for himself. Whatever Swansea had discussed as regards defending from corners whilst on their two days in Ibiza ahead of this game had clearly been forgotten as they left Evans all alone at the back post to score Albion's sixteenth goal from a set piece, Flecther providing the right-footed in-swinger.
Any Albion fans eating the prawn sandwiches prepared by my brother, on the catering staff for the executive boxes, at half-time would surely have done so happy with the knowledge that Swansea had only won once in the 22 games they had conceded first in and so a first away win since New Year's Eve was there to be hung on to.
Albion should have had a 2-0 lead to hang on to for nearly the whole of the second half after Rondon, once again, did it all for himself when he presure ised Fernandez into making a mistake and out-muscled him to run in on goal, however he took a bit too long to set up for a left-footed shot and Mawson was able to get back and get a block in. Rondon would soon be involved at the other end as he hacked away a ball that was bouncing around in our area and, from the resulting corner Wilson showed as little attention to the man at the back post as the Swansea defence had shown to Evans, however Swansea's player, having completely lost his marker, somehow failed to get anything on the ball.
That blatant miss was part of the reason that Swansea hadn't even registered a shot on target before the 71st minute, at which point they would ruin Pulis's chance of claiming a seventh clean sheet for the season, after some real end of season defending, from one of the by now mounting number of free kicks being conceded in front of Foster's area, allowed an unmarked Swanseas player to head home an unchallenged headed knock-back from six yards.
McClean came on for Livermore with only twelve more minutes of the season to be endured, and he would get to be joined by HRK, on for Morrsion, by the time Nyon and Dawson contrived to allow Llorente all the time he needed to sidefoot a volley between them from ten yards and into the bottom corner of the net, from a cross that was delivered from the left-back area that Kane Wilson might have hoped to get a token run out in. He probably even got his hopes up as the occupant of that left-back area, the other Wison, would be withdrawn however it would be Leko who got to run around in the time allowed for stoppages.
So then, a second consequtive season ending with a season-ending run of nine games without a win saw Albion drop a place to end up tenth by virtue of goal difference, although, as even that repeat run gave Pulis his top ten finish, I think, no, make that I hope, that it would be only fair and proper sum up the season as "job done: time to move on."
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