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Will Alan Pardew be a good appointment for West Brom?

Jake Jackman

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Pardew

West Brom made the brave decision to sack Tony Pulis last week and they have yet to appoint his replacement. This shows that it wasn’t a planned decision and the manner of recent performances forced their hand. Gary Megson has drawn his two matches as caretaker and as an ex-manager of the club, he is a safe pair of hands for the interim period. However, it was always unlikely that he would be given the job for a long period of time and recent reports suggest a permanent appointment is imminent.

The Mirror report that Alan Pardew is set to replace Pulis at the Hawthorns and that is an interesting move that is risky for both parties. The Baggies have favoured British managers in their recent history, therefore it is not surprising that they are making the decision to appoint an experienced, English manager. However, the former Newcastle United and Crystal Palace manager has been out of the game for nearly a year and his last stint in the Premier League ended awfully.

The Eagles looked set for relegation and were shipping goals with ease, which led to Sam Allardyce replacing him. There is a media narrative that Pardew struggles to arrest a slide and that trend has been evident at every club he has been at. For the initial period, he achieves good results and West Brom are appointing him to ensure they retain their top-flight status this season. The main risk comes from the long-term chances of success, as he has no track record of delivering it.

For Pardew, this is a huge risk as it is likely to be his final opportunity in the top-flight. He failed to deliver success at Newcastle and oversaw the initial decline that eventually led to their relegation in 2016. Palace appointed him as he had a good relationship with the supporters and he did manage to lead them to an FA Cup final in 2016, but his antics on the touchline are the long-lasting memory of the match, rather than the result. That marked the beginning of the end as Palace had an awful start to the 2016/17 season and he was dismissed before the new year.

During that period, his reputation took a hit and he has failed to land another job since. He has remained in the public eye by doing punditry for Sky Sports. In one sense, this opportunity has arrived at a good time for Pardew. West Brom are an established Premier League team with a very talented squad that is capable of doing more than they were under Pulis. The likes of Jonny Evans, Nacer Chadli, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Salomon Rondon have played to a high standard and are able to do more than they currently are.

It would be unfair to tarnish Pardew with the same brush as Pulis, as his teams do try to play a more attacking style. However, he has never been a reliable defensive coach and that leads to a lot of the problems that he faces. During the 2016/17 season, his Palace team kept only one clean sheet before his sacking and to underline his struggles during his final year, the Eagles lost 22 from 36 matches in 2016.

West Brom are bringing him in to improve the style of play and he has the tools to do that, but the changes he makes may create a new issue in defence. Throughout the Pulis era, the Baggies have been one of the better defensive teams outside of the top six. That trend has shifted this season, but they will have a good foundation for Pardew to build on. Initially, the defensive structure is likely to remain impressive, but this is an area of concern for the long-term.

Is he the right appointment?

Baggies’ supporters are still on a high from the decision to sack Pulis as the majority were pushing for change since the summer. Pardew will benefit from being the man to follow the Welshman as he will be given a chance to prove himself. However, it is a less exciting appointment than many supporters would have hoped for. His stock is at an all-time low after his failure with Palace and he will need to start strongly if he is to be given a fair chance.

There has been a trend in the Premier League this season to appoint experienced British managers. The media have often criticised the influx of foreign managers into the Premier League and blamed them for the lack of young, British managers coming through. However, this season, it has been the older British managers that have failed countless times before that are blocking the path to those making their way in the lower leagues.

Pardew is one of the better examples of a British manager getting another chance that is probably underserved. At Newcastle, he managed to finish 5th in one season, but the rest of his tenure was underwhelming at best. He was a pushover for Mike Ashley and allowed the club to enter a decline to the Championship. His reputation was protected as the media didn’t criticise him. Although he wasn’t sacked, he wasn’t doing a good job and the decision to move to Crystal Palace was one of self-preservation.

Throughout his career, he has always started well and survival this season should be within his capabilities, especially given the quality of the squad. However, it is an appointment that lacks ambition as the club aren’t planning for the long term. Pardew is unlikely to deliver better finishing positions than Pulis did. The football might be better to watch, but the results won’t change.

Jake is a student based in the South East. He is a Newcastle fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Burnley

Burnley 0-1 Manchester United: Three talking points from Turf Moor

Rob Meech

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Photo: Reuters

Anthony Martial scored the only goal of the game as Manchester United recorded their third consecutive victory by seeing off Burnley at Turf Moor. In a game devoid of end-to-end entertainment, the Frenchman struck in the 54th minute when his right-footed shot found the net via the underside of the crossbar.

Burnley tried in vain to force a leveller but could not find a way past David de Gea, as their winless run extended to seven Premier League matches. United, meanwhile, have maintained their grip on second spot but remain 12 points drift of runaway leaders Manchester City. Here are three talking points…

United pass another away-day test

Despite rumours of unrest at Old Trafford, United are now unbeaten in eight Premier League matches. While their hopes of reeling in Manchester City may be remote, Jose Mourinho’s men are red-hot favourites to finish as runners-up. That would be a huge improvement on last season – their first under Mourinho – where United finished sixth. It was only their success in the Europa League that guaranteed them a place in the Champions League.

The Red Devils are definitely progressing and the expected arrival of Alexis Sanchez would give them another dimension. In particular, their away form will please Mourinho. This was United’s fifth victory in their past six Premier League games on their travels, a run that is helping to keep the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool at bay.

Burnley is a notoriously tricky place to visit, but United withstood the physical threat of the hosts and just about had enough to claim all three points.

Burnley are feeling the effects

When looking at the table, Burnley’s position appears to be very comfortable. In eighth place and with 34 points to their name, the Clarets are all but guaranteed to be playing Premier League football again next season. That would have been manager Sean Dyche’s priority and he can feel satisfied with the job he has done.

Nonetheless, this is a difficult period for Burnley, who have not tasted victory since they beat Stoke City on December 12. Scoring goals has been their biggest problem, having drawn a blank in four of their seven-game winless  run. The Clarets are not renowned as being free-scoring – they have found the net only 19 times this season – and rely on a solid defensive foundation.

Perhaps the exertions of their promising start have taken their toll on a settled side. The challenge for Dyche, who had been linked with the Everton job during the height of Burnley’s success, is to ensure his players do not fall into the trap of thinking they have nothing to play for.

Martial is making rapid progress

The Frenchman began the campaign out of favour at United, but he has regained his place in the side thanks to a series of consistent performances. His output has been productive, too. His goal against Burnley was his third in a row, taking him to 11 for the season. Allied to his seven assists, Martial is beginning to fulfil his immense potential.

He cut a frustrated figure at being kept out of the starting XI by Marcus Rashford – there was even speculation he might be on his way out of Old Trafford. But Martial said all the right things publicly and is no longer in the ‘supersub’ category. Competition for places will only intensify if and when Sanchez’s switch from Arsenal is completed.

But the former Monaco starlet should not fear the Chilean’s arrival, but relish it. He has proved he can be a trustworthy player for United. Like Luke Shaw, he is another to have benefited from some stern words from Mourinho, who will soon have an embarrassment of attacking riches to call upon.

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Bournemouth

West Ham 1-1 Bournemouth: Three talking points from the London Stadium

Rob Meech

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Hernandez
Photo: Reuters

West Ham United and AFC Bournemouth extended their respective unbeaten runs with a 1-1 draw at the London Stadium. Both clubs have climbed away from the relegation zone in recent weeks and this was a keenly-fought encounter between two evenly-matched sides.

Following a goalless first half, the Cherries broke the deadlock through Ryan Fraser after a breakaway, only for Javier Hernandez to equalise for the hosts 64 seconds later. A share of the spoils was a fair reflection and means West Ham and Bournemouth, 11th and 12th respectively, have identical records from the past six Premier League matches. Here are three talking points…

Future looks bright for both clubs

Just a month ago, the outlook was markedly different for both West Ham and Bournemouth. At Christmas, the Cherries were in the bottom three and the Hammers were not much better off. But the eventful 3-3 draw between these two teams on Boxing Day proved to be the start of an unbeaten run for each, which has given both real hope of avoiding relegation.

Such is the congested nature of the bottom half that it only takes a couple of victories to change the complexion on the table. Both clubs have won two and drawn three of their previous five fixtures, which has been enough to put clear daylight between themselves and the drop-zone.

This game, much like the corresponding fixture at the Vitality Stadium, suggests neither West Ham nor Bournemouth should be in serious trouble at the end of the campaign – if they can maintain their form. Equally though, David Moyes and Eddie Howe will be aware that complacency is not an option.

Impressive Fraser continues his resurgence

Bournemouth’s upturn in results since Christmas has coincided with a revitalised Fraser. The Scottish winger, affectionally known as ‘Wee Man’ by Cherries supporters, now has three goals and one assist in his past four appearances. His finishing has noticeably improved this season and he took his goal against West Ham with aplomb, firing the ball past Adrian after a defence-splitting pass from the returning Junior Stanislas.

Furthermore, Fraser’s improved stamina has enabled him to be effective for longer. Previously, the 23-year-old began to flag towards the latter stages and he was often replaced. But a better diet has paid dividends this campaign and he is rapidly becoming a key figure for Howe. Fraser has pace to burn and a directness that gives the team something different. Now though, he is having a real impact in games and his five Premier League goals are second only to Callum Wilson in the scoring charts.

Can West Ham afford to let Hernandez leave?

Speculation has surfaced in the past few days that Moyes may be willing to sell Hernandez, who only joined the club last summer. His arrival under Slaven Bilic was hailed as a real coup, but he has fallen down the pecking order since Moyes took the reins, with the former Manchester United supremo preferring Marko Arnautovic up top.

Hernandez though, has a creditable career goalscoring record and underlined his predatory instinct at the London Stadium. Only a minute after the Hammers had gone behind, the Mexican popped up in the right place to poke the ball past Asmir Begovic. It was Hernandez’s fifth Premier League goal of the season, all of which have been scored from inside the penalty area.

With Andy Carroll expected to be sidelined for a month through injury, West Ham’s striking resources would be depleted further if Hernandez is allowed to leave. While he may not offer much outside the box, as he illustrated against Bournemouth that he is the ideal man to call on when a goal is needed.

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Arsenal

Arsenal 4-1 Crystal Palace: Three talking points from the Emirates

Rob Meech

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Arsenal
Photo: Reuters

A barnstorming first-half performance against Crystal Palace saw Arsenal record their first victory of 2018. Nacho Monreal, Alex Iwobi, Laurent Koscielny and Alexandre Lacazette all scored in the opening 22 minutes to stun Crystal Palace. Arsenal could not add to their tally as the visitors stemmed the bleeding and replied with a late consolation through Luka Milivojevic.

This was a much-needed victory for Arsenal, whose ambitions of qualifying for the Champions League have taken a blow in recent weeks. Palace meanwhile, have been in impressive form since Roy Hodgson took charge, but this defeat has checked their progress. Here are three talking points from the Emirates…

Mesut Ozil steps up in Alexis Sanchez’s absence

With Alexis Sanchez’s move to Manchester United rumoured to be nearing completion, this was a chance for Arsenal supporters to see how the team might shape up without him. Sanchez was excluded from the side that lost to Bournemouth last weekend, but his absence was hardly felt here.

That might have had something to do with the return of Mesut Ozil from injury. The Germany international was influential throughout, particularly in partnership with the rejuvenated Jack Wilshere. Ozil is sometimes accused of drifting in and out of games against top-quality opposition, but when he is given licence to express himself without defensive responsibility, there are few better players to watch in the Premier League.

Although he failed to get on the scoresheet, Ozil showed Gunners fans that there can be life after Sanchez. It should not be forgotten that Ozil is another Arsenal player in the final six months of his contract. Tying him down to a new deal must be a priority for the club.

A reality check for lacklustre Palace

After losing their first seven Premier League matches – without scoring a goal in the process – relegation seemed nailed on for Palace. The appointment of Hodgson was largely derided, but the former England boss has had a remarkable impact in a relatively short space of time at Selhurst Park.

Survival is by no means guaranteed, but such has been their upturn in form that it is hard to imagine the Eagles being sucked back into trouble. It says a lot about their progress that many thought an upset might have been on the cards. Palace, however, were left shell-shocked after Arsenal’s four-goal burst.

When the Gunners click, they can be irresistible. Palace fans need not be too alarmed, even if their defending was lax. In fact, they should be heartened that their players did not capitulate in the second period, with the game effectively over. Although Milivojevic’s goal was too, little too late, it was just reward for a much-improved second-half performance.

Lacazette issues a timely reminder 

With a 3-0 advantage after just 13 minutes, Arsenal were in cruise control. But it was Lacazette’s goal, rounding off a superb team move to make it 4-0, that would have provided the biggest cheer. After hitting the ground running following his big-money transfer from Lyon last summer, the 26-year-old had endured a goal drought that stretched all the way back to December 2.

With questions being asked about his form, amid speculation that Arsenal are set to launch a raid for Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, this was a timely reminder that Lacazette has plenty to offer. His overall record of nine Premier League goals from 24 appearances is more than respectable for a newcomer to the English game.

Lacazette will hope that his goal against Palace can be the catalyst for another scoring run. Without Sanchez, the burden rests more heavily on the France international and if a move for Aubameyang does not materialise, he will have a big part to play in Arsenal’s push for the top four.

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