Five players who should become key components of Alan Pardew's West Bromby Alex Keble / 30 November 2017, 18:19Tweet
Alan Pardew might not be the exciting young appointment West Bromwich Albion fans had been hoping for after nearly three dreary years of Pulis-ball, but his tactical philosophy is at least more expansive than that of his predecessor.
The Baggies’ new boss has shown remarkable consistency in his playing style during stints at Crystal Palace, Newcastle United, and West Ham United, which helps explain why his tenures usually begin with a upwards surge and end in capitulation; as opponents gradually discover just how little Pardew adapts his tactics they increasingly nullify the attacking lines. A flurry of good results followed by a slump isn’t quite what West Brom supporters were looking for - but at least it’ll be more entertaining than the days of Tony Pulis.
Pardew’s tactics are simple enough. The basic concept is to sit deep and absorb pressure in banks of four, before charging forward on the counter-attack via pacey wingers. He loves strong central midfielders capable of chipping long balls out wide, target men centre-forwards, and traditional English wingers. Like Sam Allardyce, he is an old-fashioned British manager who play a very 90s style of football.
With that in mind, here are five players who should become key components of Pardew’s West Brom:
1) Gareth Barry
The most important member of the squad will be Barry, whose experience and calming influence on central midfield should mimic the role Yohan Cabaye played for Pardew at both Palace and Newcastle. Few footballers understand the demands of old-fashioned Premier League football than the most experienced player in the division’s history.
Barry will be charged with frequently shifting the ball from flank to flank as counter-attacking opportunities arise, something he used to do superbly at Aston Villa under Martin O’Neill - another player who loved to surge down the wings. Barry’s distribution will be absolutely essential to the Pardew project, both in spreading the play for the first pass of the counter and in launching long pinpoint passes into the channels.
2) Matt Phillips
Arguably the only out-and-out winger in the West Brom squad, it is hard to overstate just how vital Phillips will become under Pardew - who loves direct wide players who can isolate full-backs one-on-one.
Phillips has earned two assists this season, more than any other Baggies player, despite having been in and out of the side under Pulis. He should get consistent playing time on the left now, chasing Barry’s long balls, hugging the touchline, and swinging high crosses towards Salomon Rondon.
3) Salomon Rondon
West Brom’s top goalscorer for each of the past two seasons has struggled to fully adapt to life in England. He occasionally looks dangerous but too often misses key chances and struggles to impact the game outside the penalty area, which should leave Pardew searching for a new striker when the January transfer window opens.
However, Rondon will benefit from playing in a team where quick wingers are cherished and not sidelined. Phillips and Jay Rodriguez will be constantly searching for Rondon from out wide, while their aggressive wing play will earn plenty of set-pieces - Rondon’s speciality.
4) Jay Rodriguez
After years of injuries Jay Rodriguez is finally finding some consistency in 2017/18, having played 1117 minutes of a possible 1260 so far. He was fielded in numerous roles by Pulis, who seemingly didn’t know how to get the most out of this nimble-footed playmaker, and thus should benefit from the (slightly) more expansive ambitions of the new manager.
Rodriguez will consistently start on the right, helping to create width by counter-acting Phillips on the other side. His excellent delivery, and ability to cut infield to support Rondon in central areas, should mimic what Andros Townsend was signed to do at Palace.
5) Grzegorz Krychowiak
The former Sevilla midfielder was a major coup for West Brom when he arrived on loan from Paris Saint-Germain this summer, but unsurprisingly has struggled so far with the transition from Ligue Un to Premier League. Pardew needs a strong central midfielder to hold ground just in front of the back four, which means Krychowiak should be given the time and patience needed to adapt.
Cheick Tiote, Mile Jedinak, and Nigel Reo-Coker all played the best football of their careers under Pardew’s leadership, largely because he simplified their roles by asking them to sweep just in front of the defence. Krychowiak, then, can look forward to a more stable second half of the season.