Sam Allardyce’s reign as West Bromwich Albion manager has got off to a dismal start. Barring a heroic defensive performance at Anfield against the Champions, Albion have lost three out of the four games Allardyce has been in charge of, conceding nine goals in three.
It is therefore fair to say that Big Sam has no quick fix for this group of players; ultimately, then, it perhaps exposes the squad even more so, demonstrating that Big Sam’s predecessor Slaven Bilic was doing as much as he possibly could with the current crop of players.
Big Sam has certainly been vocal following the abysmal performances; following captain Jake Livermore’s sending off in the 3-0 home loss to local rivals Aston Villa, Sam essentially dropped him as captain; following the 5-0 loss to Leeds, he questioned the fitness and commitment of his players; and following the recent 4-0 home loss to Arsenal, he re-emphasised the need to get signings through the door quickly.
We all know he wants fresh faces and also, where – centre back, in midfield and up front. But what will the games be where he looks to fight his survival battle? We take a look at five below:
West Brom vs. Fulham (30th January)
West Brom’s last performance against Fulham was abysmal; the players looked well and truly beaten, and so did Bilic. The Baggies were completely outplayed – it was after this game that the Albion faithful truly knew what a tough season it was going to be.
The reverse fixture comes right at the end of January, near the end of what promises to be an exciting transfer window. Big Sam has spoken of three targets he had wanted, only to be denied by the UK’s departure from the European Union.
Albion have already signed former Liverpool goalkeeper Andy Lonergan, as well as Premier League veteran Robert Snodgrass from West Ham. Lonergan’s arrival likely means Jonathan Bond is set to leave The Hawthorns.
What this demonstrates, though, is that Big Sam is keen on a few signings and that the board have promised him them. It also shows the signings will likely be firefighter-esque in their nature, just like Sam himself, and so will likely go straight into the starting XI.
With games against Wolves, West Ham and Manchester City preceding this relegation six-pointer, it will be the first where Albion are well and truly expected to win the game; that is, three points, no more and no less.
It will also be the first where Albion likely have all their deals done for – there truly is no hope if they cannot win this one.
Sheffield United vs. West Brom (2nd February)
This one speaks for itself – Albion’s first win of the season came at home against Sheffield United and has been the only win of the campaign so far.
Though Albion were fortunate to take all three points due to the Blades’ dire finishing, it was a deserved victory and one that we all thought Bilic’s men could build upon.
The Baggies have stuttered since then, but so have Sheffield United – they have picked up just one point since that game and like Albion, simply don’t look up to the challenge.
This presents a huge opportunity for Big Sam to pick up some points and coming so quickly after the Fulham fixture, to get some serious points on the board.