Over the course of his long career, Sam Allardyce has carved out a reputation for himself as a master of the Premier League relegation battle and a specialist at keeping teams in the division but not much else.
‘Big Sam’ has been in charge of 8 Premier League clubs over the 20-year span of his career, and he has never suffered relegation from the Premier League, which is why he’s regularly the man clubs turn to in their hour of need.
So, its no surprise at all that one of the relegation favourites in the league right now, West Bromwich Albion have called on Allardyce to once again put on his lifeguard vest and help steer them out of relegation waters.
The Baggies parted ways with Slaven Bilic on Tuesday, rather unfairly depending on who you ask, especially since it was just hours after he masterminded a draw at Manchester City, but the game is the game.
On paper, Bilic deserved to be fired, the club sit 19th on the log with 1 win in their first 13 games, just 7 points gathered out of a possible 39. However, just one glance at the West Brom roster and the numbers look a little more justified, how could anyone expect more from that group of players?
Escaping relegation with a team like this is not going to be easy at all, even if you’re big Sam Allardyce the great escape connoisseur, the squad is so bereft of Premier League quality.
As a collective, they’ve scored 10 goals and conceded 26 in 13 games, only two players in the entire squad have scored more than one Premier League goal this season – striker Callum Robinson and Conor Gallagher, the midfielder on loan from Chelsea, both have 2 goals.
Another reason the great escape might not happen at the Hawthorns is ironically the manager who has just been appointed specifically to facilitate the great escape: Sam Allardyce.
While Big Sam’s credentials in this sort of situations are unquestionable, the truth is that he is very much from a different era of football, and having not managed for two years, could find it more challenging repeating his brand of magic in today’s game.
With European football’s new obsession with playing out from the back at every opportunity, the relentless pressing of Klopp’s Liverpool and Bielsa’s Leeds, and with fullbacks now as valuable as number 10s, Allardyce, whose brand of football is of a decidedly different bent, appears a rather anachronistic appointment.
The point is, Big Sam’s primary tactic of defending compactly and hoping for the best with long balls is a dying art in today’s Premier league, and before you say “what about Jose Mourinho?” There’s a massive difference.
While similar at surface level, Jose’s style possesses a bit more panache than Allardyce’s; Spurs defend tightly and then pick the opportune moment for an outlet pass, Allardyce teams, meanwhile, just hoof the ball into the air and hope for the best.
Also, Jose Mourinho has Heung Min Son and Harry Kane at his disposal in Tottenham, Sam Allardyce does not, because he’s coaching at West Bromwich Albion, see the difference?
There’s a chance Allardyce will be caught off guard by the quality of his direct relegation rivals because in the past, pretty much only the top 4 or 5 teams had quality players making it a fairer playing ground for the rest of the teams.
In today’s Premier League, the story is much different. Newcastle, Brighton, Southampton, Crystal Palace are teams widely expected to finish in the bottom half of the table, and each of these teams have at least one player who, arguably, could be playing for a top 7 side, a testament to the quality of the league in general.
I’m sure Sam Allardyce is well aware of all the factors mentioned so far, which makes one wonder why he took the job, the job that is almost impossible to execute and may well prove to be the final nail in his managerial coffin.
Why risk ruining his perfect record against relegation? May be he just missed the game, having been unattached to any team since he was fired by Everton in 2018. Or, perhaps, he was inspired by the size of the mission and couldn’t resist the lure of further advancing his reputation.
If he can pull it off, only Big Sam can say.
Whether or not Sam Allardyce will be able to work his magic and help West Brom avoid relegation still remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure; he’s certainly not bringing any exciting football to the Hawthorns.