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Three reasons West Brom are facing the realistic possibility of relegation

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West Bromwich Albion

Three reasons West Brom are facing the realistic possibility of relegation

With West Bromwich Albion languishing at the foot of the Premier League table, seven points from safety, Martyn Cooke investigates the three factors that are likely to lead to relegation for the Baggies this season.

It is fair to say that the events of the past two weeks have signalled another low point for West Bromwich Albion in what has been an increasingly turbulent and chaotic season that, barring a repeat of the 2005 ‘great escape’, appears set to culminate in relegation.

On the pitch a heavy defeat against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge left the Baggies rooted to the foot of the Premier League table, seven points shy of safety, whilst any temporary relief that an FA Cup run may have provided was swiftly ended after Southampton’s victory at The Hawthorns.

The immediate future looks bleak and it will take a herculean effort from Alan Pardew and his players in the closing months of the season to preserve the club’s top-flight status.

However, West Brom appear determined to complicate matters for themselves by continuously shooting themselves in the foot through controversies, accusations and sackings off the pitch.

Owner Lai  Guochuan wielded the axe by sacking his two most senior executives last week, with chairman John Williams and chief executive Martin Goodman both paying the price for the Albion’s nightmare season.

On the same day it was revealed that four senior players had broken a club curfew during their warm weather training camp in Spain and were accused of stealing a taxi following a late-night drinking session, although none of them will face legal action due to a lack of evidence, reports BBC Sport.

The club now stands on the brink of relegation with uncertainty in the boardroom and off-field antics by senior players underpinning a campaign that has been characterised by poor performances on the pitch.

Here, The Boot Room highlights three reasons why the Baggies are facing a return to the Championship.

Managerial sackings, appointments and mistakes(?)

When Tony Pulis arrived at the Hawthorns in January 2015 he became the club’s fourth manager in the space of a year, yet the former Stoke City and Crystal Palace boss was able to achieve a moderate amount of success whilst in charge of the club.

The 60-year-old led The Baggies to 13th, 14th and 10th in the Premier League table during his first three seasons and the club also made a bright start to the current campaign.

However, Pulis will always remain a somewhat divisive figure for the style of play that he employs, which results in a team that is defensively solid but is reliant on long, direct balls into isolated forward players.

It is the kind of football that is unattractive and unappealing to supporters, yet there is a willingness to accept it as long as it generates results.

Therefore it came as little surprise that West Brom fans, and subsequently the club hierarchy, lost patience with Pulis after a run of 10 games without a win in the autumn.

The Welshman was sacked in November and was quickly replaced by former Newcastle United and Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew.

However, his arrival has failed to stimulate an upturn in results or performances at The Hawthorns and the 56-year-old has secured just one win from his first 13 Premier League contests.

There was an almost unanimous agreement around the club that it was the right decision to sack Pulis, but Pardew’s failure to transform the club’s fortunes has left many external onlookers questioning whether the Welshman would have been a better bet to guide the Baggies to safety.

A more pertinent question perhaps is why Pardew was seen as the best choice for the role in the first place?

It appears that the decision to appoint him combined with continuing poor results has cost chairman John Williams and chief executive Martin Goodman their jobs.

A lack of goals

The primary issue for West Bromwich Albion on the pitch this season has been their inability to find the back of the net.

The Baggies have scored just 21 goals in the Premier League this season and only one other team, Swansea City, have found the net less this campaign.

The club has been desperately short of quality in the final third and simply lack an out-and-out goal scorer to convert the handful of chances that are created by a relatively uninspiring midfield unit.

Salomon Rondon has led the forward line for much of the campaign but has been increasingly isolated, inconsistent and simply does not look confident in front of goal.

Meanwhile, Jay Rodriguez, who arrived in the summer form Southampton, missed a large chunk of the season through injury but has shown glimpses of returning to form.

The pair have scored just four Premier League goals each this term – a poor return from two players who have performed much better in previous years.

West Brom’s struggles are highlighted by the fact that Jonny Evans and Ahmed Hegazi, two central defenders, are the club’s next highest scorers.

The arrival of Daniel Sturridge on loan from Liverpool in January was supposed to solve Alan Pardew’s goal scoring dilemma, but the 28-year-old lasted only three minutes on his first start against Chelsea before limping off with a hamstring injury.

It is unclear how much direct involvement the striker will have for the remainder of the season and the club’s decision to place all of their eggs in one basket appears to have backfired badly.

Off-field issues

The poor performances on the pitch this season have been exacerbated by West Brom’s apparent determination to stumble from one controversy to the next off of it.

First, the club were left shocked after the FA charged striker Jay Rodriguez with ‘using abusive and/or insulting words, which included a reference to ethnic origin and/ or colour and/or race’ after an incident with Brighton and Hove Albion defender Gaetan Bong last month, as reported by the Birmingham Mail.

Both the club and the striker vehemently deny any allegations of wrong doing, but it simply adds to the feeling around the Hawthorns that nothing is going right this season.

It was then revealed that four senior players missed a club curfew during the Baggies’ warm weather training camp in Spain last week and that they had been accused of stealing a taxi.

Gareth Barry, Jonny Evans, Jake Livermore and Boaz Myhill were interviewed, but not arrested by police after the incident and are unlikely to be charged due to a lack of evidence.

The quartet have since publicly apologised for their behaviour, whilst Alan Pardew admitted that the actions of his players were “unacceptable” and that he “felt a bit let down”.

The constant deluge of issues on and off the field has left West Brom supporters just wondering what else can go wrong for them this season.

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

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