Last chance saloon for West Brom boss Alan Pardew

Chloe Beresford by Chloe Beresford / 02 March 2018, 14:22

West Bromwich Albion boss Alan Pardew will be in the last chance saloon this Saturday afternoon, with various media outlets all agreeing that he has just one match to save his job away to Watford.

The Baggies suffered a disappointing 2-1 defeat to fellow relegation candidates Huddersfield last weekend, leaving Pardew’s men rock bottom of the Premier League, seven points from safety with ten games remaining.

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Their league position is not the manager’s only problem, as many of the national newspapers have revealed an internal rift, with players said to be unhappy with the 4-4-2 system that Pardew seems determined to persevere with.

Those reports suggest that the boss – and other members of the playing squad – were confronted by midfielder Chris Brunt after defeat to Huddersfield, the 33-year-old angered by a perceived lack of effort and unhappy that midfielders Gareth Barry and Grzegorz Krychowiak had been left exposed by the tactical setup.

Indeed, Barry was one of the players involved in the recent incident involving a stolen taxi in Barcelona but was still included in the starting lineup versus Southampton just two days later, leaving many questioning Pardew’s authority over the players. All of this is hardly ideal preparation for such an important 90 minutes for the 56-year-old, and to cap it all the media are strongly suggesting that he is ready to bow to pressure and make the tactical switch.

Such a move would see him recall Brunt to the starting lineup and pack the midfield with a 3-5-2 formation. “I’m not surprised but disappointed that it hasn’t happened,” Pardew told The Guardian in response to a question about why there has been no improvement in results.

“I’m disappointed for the people that employed me. I’ve got 11 games to hopefully put that right. It’s not for the want of trying. I’ve gone into my records and used most of my repertoire but I’ve still got a few things to go.”

Alan Pardew’s “repertoire” conjures up unwanted memories of extremely questionable dance moves in the FA Cup final, but in all seriousness his brash personality and apparent willingness to waver over tactics doesn’t paint a picture of someone who can save a side from relegation, and stands in stark contrast to his opponent on Saturday.

The quiet and unassuming Javi Gracia was appointed by Watford to replace Marco Silva on January 21st without much of a fanfare, but the relatively unknown boss soon halted the Hornets’ slide, earning seven points from a possible 12 in his first four Premier League fixtures. This included a stunning 4-1 home victory over Antonio Conte’s Chelsea, leading those who had not paid much attention to the appointment to sit up and take notice.

He may not be a star name, but here lies a Coach who would never take the spotlight like Pardew, a man who has clear ideas, has previously shown absolute loyalty to his players and who believes 100% in his methods. Planning and work-rate are essential to Gracia, but he seems to lack the Conte-esque maniacal streak in order to enforce it.

“Winning in any [old] way, without a sense of conviction, is not a full happiness,” Gracia told the Guardian.

“You feel a little empty. Look, we’re professionals and above all we want to compete but that’s where satisfaction, true satisfaction, comes from. There has to be something more.”

Perhaps the most telling line from Gracia came in a recent interview with The Express, and it was one that his opponent on Saturday could certainly learn from, if not at West Brom then at wherever his next job will take him.

“I trust in my work – if you don’t, you have no chance,” he said. It certainly looks, then, like Alan Pardew has almost “no chance” to save himself from the sack.

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