Tony Pulis' safety-first style denies West Brom a win over Villa
For the second consecutive game and fourth time this season, West Brom failed to register a shot on target as they drew 0-0 with rivals Aston Villa at the Hawthorns on Saturday.
Derby games are usually high-paced, end-to-end affairs, but West Brom's performance was anything but that. They looked tired and leggy from the beginning of the game, they passed the ball poorly and even lacked their usual threat from set pieces. Aston Villa had 60 percent of the ball and seemed to be the only side trying to win the game.
While you have to admire the determination and commitment shown by the players to grind out a draw from a poor performance, the way Tony Pulis set up the team was incredibly disappointing. It appeared that West Brom set up not to lose the game from the first whistle, rather than showing any ambition to win the game.
Having that mindset in a run-of-the-mill home fixture against the side bottom of the league would be bad enough, but to have that approach when the game is against your local rivals, who are bottom of the league and have won two games all season, is criminal.
The fixture represented an opportunity to pull further clear of the relegation battle and plunge Aston Villa further into trouble, but Pulis' safety-first, cautious mindset meant West Brom fans ended up relieved to come away with just a point from an eminently winnable game.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Ben Foster, 7 -- The England International looked comfortable on his return to Premier League action following a long-term injury. He made a couple of decent saves and the defence generally looked more comfortable with him in goal behind them.
DF Craig Dawson, 6 -- It was a solid performance from Dawson, who kept Jordan Ayew quiet out wide and made one vital clearance. Distribution improved on recent weeks, but was let down by the players in front of him.
DF Gareth McAuley, 7 -- Against two players with a big physical presence in Libor Kozak and then Rudy Gestede, McAuley was totally dominant. He didn't lose a header all game and was generally untroubled.
DF Jonas Olsson, 5 -- Only passed a fitness test late on and it showed. Struggled throughout the game both defensively and on the ball. Lucky not to give away a penalty.
DF Jonny Evans, 6 -- Was comfortable at left-back but is clearly of more value in the middle of the defence. Leadership and communication skills were key late on as West Brom defended resolutely.
MF Stephane Sessegnon, 5 -- Another frustrating display. He seemed reticent to run at his full-back and lacked quality in the final third.
MF Craig Gardner, 6 -- Used the ball better than his midfield colleagues but didn't get many opportunities despite being the most advanced midfielder due to the ineffectiveness of West Brom's forwards.
MF Claudio Yacob, 6 -- This was a game that was well-suited to Yacob's qualities, with West Brom having to do plenty of defending. Good positionally and broke up play well, but his passing leaves a lot to be desired at times.
MF Darren Fletcher, 5 -- Was clearly carrying an injury and despite his best efforts, simply couldn't find his trademark energy and box-to-box style of play. Another whose leadership was crucial in the final stages of the game.
MF James McClean, 5 -- Much like Sessegnon, the Republic of Ireland winger lacked quality in the final third. Seemed intent on beating his marker several times instead of getting crosses into the box early. Worked hard defensively in support of Evans.
FW Salomon Rondon, 4 -- An incredibly disappointing display from West Brom's record signing. Didn't hold the ball up at all, didn't challenge for aerially and even lacked his usual energy when pressing the opposition.
MF Callum McManaman, 5 -- Has done well as an impact substitute in recent weeks but didn't see enough of the ball to have any impact on proceedings.
FW Saido Berahino, 5 -- Didn't have much service but appears to be off the pace and distracted by the constant transfer speculation. Not helped by Rondon and Victor Anichebe's inability to hold the ball up.