Pulis releases the shackles as Rondon torments Manchester United
Sunday's 1-0 win over Manchester United suggests West Brom boss Tony Pulis has discovered a way of playing at home that marries together the defensive organisation that he prides himself on with an attacking threat that worries the opposition and creates enough chances to win games.
It is far from all-out attack but it is certainly more ambitious and easier on the eye than the way West Brom have played for much of this season. This is perhaps best demonstrated by the fact that right-back Craig Dawson had the best chance of the first half with a header from inside the six yard box, while Salomon Rondon's winning goal was created by a cross from the overlapping Sebastien Pocognoli.
That West Brom's two full-backs were so high up the pitch shows that Pulis has finally loosened the shackles on his side and they look all the better for it.
Claudio Yacob and Darren Fletcher are back to their best, passing the ball quickly, accurately and -- most importantly -- forwards, now they have more outlets. Rondon is also looking like a totally different player, one worthy of his £12million price tag, now he's receiving a decent level of service.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Ben Foster, 6 -- One of the quietest games of the season for the England goalkeeper, which was a welcome relief after his heroics in the 2-2 draw at Leicester. Did what he had to calmly and efficiently.
DF Craig Dawson, 7 -- Kept Anthony Martial and then Jesse Lingard quiet defensively, and was also West Brom's biggest attacking threat in the first half. Pulis will hope the injury which forced him off is not too serious.
DF Gareth McAuley, 8 -- A commanding performance from the veteran centre-half, with a strong challenge on Marcus Rashford unsettling the youngster. Made a crucial block in the first half from a Martial shot.
DF Jonas Olsson, 6 -- Won plenty of aerial battles but a few moments of uncertain defending when the ball bounced. Continues to look shaky with the ball at his feet.
DF James Chester, 7-- Looking more assured with each game, despite constantly switching between left and right-back. Calm on the ball and surprisingly powerful in the air.
MF Stephane Sessegnon, 6 -- The diminutive winger saw a lot of the ball but wasn't at his best. Failed to beat either Matteo Darmian or Marcos Rojo with any regularity.
MF Claudio Yacob, 9 -- For the second consecutive home game, the Argentine midfielder was superb at the heart of West Brom's midfield. Continually broke up play with a series of tackles and interceptions, and his passing was fantastic throughout.
MF Darren Fletcher, 8 -- West Brom's captain put in a commanding display against his former side. The Scottish international covered every blade of grass on the pitch, used the ball smartly and provided good attacking support when required.
MF Craig Gardner, 7 -- Relegated to more of a supporting role after his star turn in the 2-2 draw against Leicester City. Mainly used to provide defensive cover for both Dawson and Chester but did his job well. Set piece delivery was a mixed bag.
FW Saido Berahino, 6 -- Struggled after recent good performances. Touch was poor on occasions, lost the ball too often and showed a rare lack of composure in the box. Worked hard for the team, though.
FW Salomon Rondon, 9 -- The Venezuelan international once again led the line superbly. Powerful, quick and energetic, he had a tremendous battle with Chris Smalling. Great touch and finish for West Brom's winner.
DF Sebastien Pocognoli, 7 -- Added an attacking dimension to the play from the full-back position. Provided the cross for Rondon's goal and a couple of other good deliveries. Defended resolutely.
MF James McClean, 6 -- Had a similar struggle to Sessegnon in terms of getting past his full-back. Good defensive cover and signs of a decent link between him and Pocognoli.
MF Sandro, N/R -- Provided an extra defensive body late on.
Matthew Evans is a lifelong West Brom fan and season-ticket holder. You can follow him on Twitter @MattEvansWBA.