Is Tony Pulis the right manager to get the best of Nacer Chadli?

The sports desks of our national newspapers have spent the last few days trying to ‘grade’ each team’s performance in the transfer window and in truth it is a thankless task. Such judgements can only be very tentative speculations; it is only when you see new signings on the pitch that you can begin to draw conclusions. It is also very difficult to compare two different purchases. What matters is not always how good a player is per se, but how well he fits the buyer’s needs. Sometimes a fairly modest player can make a big impact because his attributes address a flaw that was previously holding his new team back (Mohamed Elneny at Arsenal was one example last season).

Which makes Nacer Chadli’s move to West Brom a little perplexing. Chadli has more than enough talent to make a significant contribution at the Hawthorns, and has a higher ceiling than their existing wide options. What is in doubt is whether he is the type of character who will buy into what Tony Pulis demands of his charges. We can only speculate, but Chadli seems a bit of a sensitive soul, a player who will want a kind word in the ear and to be indulged slightly. As the ‘big fish in the small pond’, there is a chance he might get this treatment at West Brom. Pulis however, does not exactly have a history of letting ephemeral talents off the leash.

 

Recent reports have suggested there is growing tension between Pulis and the West Brom board following the takeover of the club earlier this summer. Chairman John Williams had the following to say on West Brom’s transfer business:
“Our head coach Tony Pulis is very selective and particular about the players he recruits so it follows that the new team members will add significantly to his first-team options. Tony wanted five and we got five.”

All managers have to be ‘particular’ about the players they recruitment, it is their head that will roll if results turn sour after all, but those comments do sound slightly barbed. Danny Higginbotham, who played under Pulis at Stoke, said on Sky Sports News that he was often happy to wait until the close of the window to business because he was concerned about getting the right ‘character’, as well as the right player.

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Chadli doesn’t strike you as the type of character Pulis would have identified as desirable. The Belgian winger did well in Mauricio Pochettino’s first season at Spurs, scoring 11 goals in 28 Premier League starts including goals against rivals Arsenal and Chelsea. However, he was restricted to just 10 league starts last term as Pochetinno settled on a balanced and well drilled collective that propelled Spurs to an excellent season. Chadli could not be relied upon to produce the off-the-ball output demanded by Pochetinno, nor was the overall set up especially conducive to him. Spurs’ wide players form a narrow three behind Harry Kane, allowing them to create overloads in the middle of the pitch while seeking width through full-backs Kyle Walker and Danny Rose. There wasn’t really room for an orthodox winger.

 

Chaldi though, should have no problem displacing West Brom’s existing wide options such as Chris Brunt, Calum McManaman and James Mclean. The former Spurs man is quite tall for a winger and is a strong and imposing runner once he builds up a head of steam. Pulis however, does not have a great track record when it comes to extracting the most out of attacking talent. The likes of Tuncay and Eidur Gudjohnsen came and went at Stoke without making much of an impact. Whether he has the patience or the will to cajole the most out of Chadli seems highly doubtful.

Featured Image: All rights reserved by Huma Khan

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