It may be slightly early in the season to label any match a ‘must win’ game, but Saturday’s visit to West Brom certainly feels like one. Pep Guardiola’s men are without a win in six games in all competitions, and will need a win in order to stay at the top of the table. They come up against a stubborn West Brom side, who have taken points off Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United in their most recent home fixtures.
We caught up with West Brom fan, Sarah Rudge, in order to gauge her feelings towards Saturday’s game, and towards the two sides in general.
Hi Sarah, thanks for talking to us. First of all, what have you made of West Brom’s start to the season, and has it altered your targets for the year ahead?
Our season so far has certainly been an interesting one. We’ve had some impressive results beating West Ham at home and securing a creditable draw against Tottenham and I would suggest that most fans are relatively pleased with the amount of points we have accumulated despite conceding late goals against Sunderland and Spurs. The supporters still seem to be frustrated by our style of play, though 10 points from 9 games isn’t a bad return considering the fixtures we’ve had. I think all of the fans are craving a another top half finish and a season which doesn’t see us being involved in another relegation battle.
Tony Pulis’ style of football isn’t for everyone, and many Baggies fans have called for a new manager with a more attractive playing style. What are your feelings towards Pulis?
With Tony Pulis you either love him or you hate him. I would predict that the majority of our supporters aren’t overly fond of him but nobody can deny he gets results in the Premier League. With his record of never having been relegated from the Premier League still in tact he will always be seen as a safe option by our owners. The announcement of him extending his contract by a further year has been greeted with a mixed reaction from the Baggies faithful but in all honesty it comes as no surprise. We have encountered a good start to the season and despite his previous negative tactics I believe with a couple of quality additions in January, Pulis is still, for now, the right manager to take us forward.
Nacer Chadli has really hit the ground running since his arrival from Tottenham Hotspur. Were you happy with the business the club conducted in the summer transfer window?
Nacer Chadli has announced himself at West Brom in spectacular fashion. With 4 goals in 6 games and a couple of assists he has instantly become a fans favourite and is certainly beginning to repay the £13 million that we paid to secure his services. He was most definitely our ‘marquee’ signing of the summer but we were all left disappointed with the rest of our transfer business. Matt Phillips has been a reasonably good addition to the squad but we would hope there are more improved performances to come from him. Brendan Galloway has flattered to deceive when selected but at just 20 years old he has plenty of time to develop, hopefully starting at the Hawthorns. Hal Robson-Kanu has had a limited amount of game time but even Pulis admitted he wasn’t our first choice option and considering the players we were linked with, nobody seemed hugely impressed with the acquisitions we eventually made.
Is there an area of the West Brom squad that you believe to be particularly strong or weak?
With the addition of Chadli we now have more threat on the counter attack but our main objective will be to keep it as tight as possible and hope to score from a set piece. Defensive solidity is our main strength although with Yacob being suspended it will mean a reshuffle to our midfield. When we are in possession we can sometimes be a little wasteful and slow in getting forward but the news that McClean will be fit for the weekend is a bonus for us after his marked improvement of late. The return of Jonny Evans from suspension is also very important because of his leadership qualities and he has been nothing short of exceptional since his move from Manchester United.
On to Manchester City now. What are your perceptions of City as a club, both past and present?
During my lifetime I’ve certainly seen a change in Manchester City as a football club. I remember back in 2002 when West Brom first got promoted to the Premier League along with Man City and the changes in the two clubs since, has been extraordinary. Whilst the Baggies obtained the ‘yo-yo’ tag and switched divisions on a regular basis, Man City got new owners who instilled a lot into the club financially which allowed them to compete with the bigger clubs in the Premier League. We’ve seen the arrivals of Robinho, Yaya Toure and Aguero to name just a few which have enhanced the reputation of the club and allowed City to now compete in the Champions League and rewrite their own history books.
If you could have one player join West Brom from the current City squad, who would it be and why?
Kevin De Bruyne. It may not seem the most obvious choice considering the likes of Silva and Aguero also in the squad but De Bruyne is a match winner. On his day he can take players on all by himself and drive the team forward. He is powerful, scores goals, creates goals and from an outside perspective it is easy to see why Man City spent so much on such a quality player.
And finally, please can we have your predicted West Brom team, and your prediction for the final score on Saturday?
Well, as already mentioned, we have Claudio Yacob missing through suspension so I would like to see James Morrison selected in central midfield. Jonny Evans is also an option but by removing him from our defence we lose his excellent partnership with Gareth McAuley. Aside from this, Foster in goal is an easy choice. Dawson, McAuley, Evans and Brunt would be my back four despite Brunt returning from a long term injury because the option of Nyom at left back gives me nightmares after his previous two performances. Phillips, Fletcher, Morrison and McClean in midfield with Chadli supporting Rondon up front should complete the line up. If I’m being optimistic I would like to think we can snatch a point if we’re at our very best and if Man City are below par with the midweek game against Barcelona hopefully on their minds but with the quality in their squad I think 2-1 to City is a more realistic prediction.