It’s been an entertaining start to the Premiership season, and no more so than at the bottom of the table.
Two of the newly promoted teams from the Championship, Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion, faced off at the weekendâ€”two teams that have contrasting styles and fortunes on the pitch.
First, let’s look at Stoke City. They’re direct, uncompromising, and as we know, they like to launch the ball long from the back, and play for set-pieces and Rory Delap’s now famous throw-ins.
It may not be pretty, but it’s effective, with some strong home form at the Britannia Stadium keeping the Potters’ heads above water for now.
Then you have West Brom, a team who look easy on the eye with some neat, passing football, but are ultimately losing games and struggling in the relegation zone.
Now, both managers have had plenty of time at their respective clubs to make their mark and blend their team into the style of their choosing, and as a result both sides spent a fair amount of money in the summer to try and keep their sides in the Premier League, but took different approaches with the signings they made.
Tony Pulis at Stoke went for players to compliment the direct style that had served his side so well previously, with the likes of Dave Kitson and Seyi Olofinjana bolstering the ranks.
Stoke fans knew what kind of players they were getting, and you have to say it’s been a pretty successful policy so far, with the Potters sitting outside of the drop zone.
On the contrary, West Brom went abroad and drafted in the likes of Borja Valero and Ryan Donk to play their own more cultured style.
And with West Brom rooted to the bottom of the table, one would argue it’s a policy that hasn’t worked thus far, though their bold style of play has won them many fans across the country.
For me, this is bad management on Tony Mowbray’s part. Though their approach to the game is indeed admirable, football is first and foremost a results business, and West Brom just aren’t cutting it at the moment.
Mowbray’s reluctance to change things could prove costly for the Baggies, and may well cost them their Premiership status.
Of course, there are some exceptions. Fulham managed to stay up last season playing some attractive football, but that’s more the exception to the rule.
Generally, you need grit and discipline, something which Stoke have in abundance, and which West Brom undoubtedly lack. And in the Premiership, you need to be able to battle with the best of them.
You don’t win extra points for shots outside the area, nor do you for smart passing moves. You do win matches by scoring goals and it doesn’t matter how they go in, be it a long throw or a long ball launched from the back.
But what about the likes of Stoke and Bolton? Two sides that are perfectly capable of playing good football themselves, and a look at the weekend’s action will show you just that.
Stoke’s goal came from a swift one-two and cross in the box, and Matt Taylor’s goal against Middlesborough for Bolton came from a great passing move.
Yet for these teams their reputations precede them, and their good football is largely ignored.
Of course, Mowbray himself has refused to abandon his footballing principles, and West Brom will continue to play their way, no matter what the consequences.
Some would call this honorable and applaud his decision.
I wonder if West Brom fans will feel the same come May, with Championship football to look forward to once again?