Sam Allardyce’s reputation, repertoire, transfers, and bluster could not combine to keep West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League.
The Baggies fell 3-1 to Arsenal, leaving them 10 points back of 17th-place Burnley with only nine points available to it on the fixture list.
“It wasn’t quite good enough,” said an emotional Allardyce after the game, a humanizing sight we’ve almost never seen from such a massive personality.
The Baggies boss was asked whether more time could’ve got the job done and, to his credit, the 66-year-old wasn’t looking for excuses.
“No, because we had the time to bring it around,” Allardyce said. “Our real problem was not beating the bottom six sides when we had the opportunity to and we played well enough to beat them. Beating Chelsea, drawing Manchester United, Liverpool, and Man City should be bonus points.”
The 66-year-old took over the Hawthorns set after 13 matches, as West Brom cut ties with Slaven Bilic after a draw with Man City that left the Baggies holding a 1W-4D-8L record at the bottom of the table.
The Baggies had scored 13 times in that run, conceding 26.
So what’s happened since? West Brom has won four times, drawn seven, and lost 11 times while scoring 19 goals and allowing 42.
How do the tenures compare? Allardyce’s West Brom scored less (0.86:1), conceded less (1.91:2), and collected more points per game (.86:.57) than the early season under Bilic.
Aren’t there some other variables?
For one thing, Allardyce got to buy players to improve the squad. In came Mbaye Diagne, Robert Snodgrass, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, and Okay Yokuslu.
Yokuslu was arguably West Brom’s top performer and Maitland-Niles an improvement. Diagne just fine while Snodgrass fought injuries.
So was this West Brom team simply beyond saving? That’s a good question, because as much as Allardyce’s Baggies beat Chelsea and drew Liverpool, Bilic’s men drew Man City and Chelsea.
It’s difficult to believe BIlic wouldn’t have improved the club, too. Would anyone have sorted this team out?
Allardyce did, to his credit, have the boys scrapping to the end.
“We came out fighting,” Allardyce said. “I can’t say any more than that .... It hasn’t sunk in yet. I’ll probably wake up tomorrow and realize it. I’m not saying we would’ve avoided relegation but at least we should’ve been closer based on how we’ve performed but that ultimate decision we make and final passing. The creation of chances has been there but the conversion has not. Today defensively we slipped up. They took their goals really well. Lots of times in the final third we had better chances to create more and convert and that’s probably been the most disappointing thing.”
Did Allardyce do much wrong? Well, there’s dark humor in his December comments that Arsenal would be fearing relegation more than West Brom because they didn’t have his experience, because even the substandard Gunners were just too much for them
But he found Yokuslu, who has a place in the PL if he wants it. And both managers rode star goalkeeper Sam Johnstone for all he’s worth.
Allardyce, however, was slow to warm to the freedom he needed to give Matheus Pereira and he almost never used captain Jake Livermore following a red card early in his tenure. His tactics were also wrong against Wolves and his Baggies lost to Sheffield United and Crystal Palace while drawing Burnley, Newcastle and Brighton.
So is this the end for Big Sam at West Brom?
“It’s too early to consider that for me. Tonight is just about saying to the lads have a night or two and come back for Liverpool at the weekend.”