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West Brom vs Tottenham Hotspur: Opposition Analysis

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The horror! The horror!

Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

The Season Just Gone

Miserable, I watch another empty hour pass by. I have nothing whatsoever to do. I have no life. Only in action does my life approximate anything more than existence. Without any other task or stimulus, I’m no longer living, no longer surviving. I’m just waiting.

I want to brush the collected dirt off my arm, away from the open wound. I take my knife and begin clearing particles from my trapped hand, using the dulled blade like a brush. Sweeping the grit off my thumb, I accidentally gouge myself and rip away a thin piece of decayed flesh. It peels back like a skin of boiled milk before I catch what is going on. I already knew my hand had to be decomposing.

Without circulation, it has been dying since I became entrapped. Whenever I considered amputation, it had always been under the premise that the hand was dead and would have to be amputated once I was freed. But I hadn’t known how fast the putrefaction had advanced since Saturday afternoon. Now I understand the increase in the interest of the indigenous insect population. They could already smell their next meal, their breeding ground, their larva’s new home.

This comes from Between a Rock and a Hard Place, Aron Ralston’s bestselling account of the time a freak accident left him trapped under a rock in the Utah desert, left with no option but to amputate his own arm. However, it rather conveniently reads exactly like the thoughts of the average West Bromwich Albion fan, forced to sit and watch the Devil Tony Pulis mercilessly chip away at the wills to live of the 27,000-strong crowd for an entire season, long since driven insane by the horrors in front of them, unable to think of anything other than self-mutilation.

Such despair is known by few. Given the choice between living Ralston’s experience and being a West Brom fan last season, I’ll take being pinned under a boulder for more than five days and drinking my own urine every single time.

The Season Ahead

Unfortunately, West Brom’s 2016-17 is going to be just as painful as any other campaign overseen by Satan Pulis. The Baggies fans’ only hope is that Lucifer Pulis upsets Guochuan Lai by pulling his party trick and trying to pocket some of the Chinese’s fortune by exploiting the darker side of the transfer market. Beelzebub Pulis is already on thin ice, by all accounts, having come close to walking away during the summer over the board’s refusal to sell Saido Berahino and give him more money to embezzle spend on players he deems more suitable for the club’s long-term future.

In the meantime, it’s more hoofball and boredom for the West Brom crowd, who will doubtless spend the period between now and next August wishing they were doing something more fun, like struggling for life in Utah while coming to terms with the fact that they’re going to have to leave a limb behind to escape.

Tactics

Michael Owen, unofficially (for now) the World’s Beigest Man, once described He Who Must Not Be Named Pulis’ training as "boring" and "mind-numbing". One can only imagine how bad things must have gotten for a man of Owen’s unequivocal dullness to feel compelled to publicly declare something to be indescribably dismal.

Sadly for Owen and for the rest of the human race, the Dark Lord’s Pulis’ soporific methods appear to be effective. As always, West Brom’s main focus is on keeping a good defensive shape and giving their opponents as little time and space near their goal as possible. They have become competent enough at it to avoid so much as flirting with relegation.

The opposition’s space is minimised by keeping all four defenders back and making sure the defensive midfielders – usually two, sometimes three – sit deep and protect the back four. With none of the defenders obliged to attack or provide width, West Brom have tended to use four tall centre-backs and their task is very simple: keep their shape, protect the box and punt the ball as far as possible whenever it arrives at their feet. For some reason Allan Nyom, an out-and-out full-back, has been used at left-back of late. One assumes this is due to some kind of administrative error.

Such extreme focus on the defensive aspect of the game tends to limit attacking output somewhat. The Evil Doer’s Pulis’ Stoke side was, among other things, renowned for its toothlessness, and this West Brom side is no different. They have scored only 8 goals in 7 games this season, and four of those came in one game. Emphasis on defence is one reason for their failure to score – the other is their manager’s favoured method of attack.

Strengths

This column is morally obliged to deny that any Tony Pulis team can possibly have strengths.

Weaknesses

After ten minutes you’ll wish you were pinned under a gigantic rock in the middle of the desert.

Likely XI

Ten really tall guys who get kicks out of bloody violence and Nacer Chadli, who’s actually far too nice to be involved with this unseemly rabble.

WBASPU

Prediction

Spurs are by far the better side but they’ll almost certainly be hit hard by Post-International Break Blues and heavy squad rotation. There’ll most likely be one goal in it – hopefully the away side score it.