Two teams who shouldn't be celebrating Christmas
Christmas has passed. As fans all know, it's a day without football. For these two clubs who weren't, but should have been out on the training pitch, that was probably the best possible gift.
After rescuing the side from the combined work of Francesco Guidolin, Bob Bradley, and an impatient board, Paul Clement's Swans endured a poor start to 2017-18. As with his predecessors, the Englishman was accused of playing poor football, not to mention fielding a side in poor form that exhibited little fight.
Clement was therefore relieved, and now probably is. He can point to the board's poor support. Fernando Llorente and Gylfi Sigurdson both had huge effects on Swansea in the previous season, but were sold on. On the other hand, Renato Sanches was brought in. The Portuguese had worked under Clement and Carlo Ancelotti at Bayern. He looked lost in Wales, however.
A day after Paul Clement's dismissal, Leon Britton was appointed the club's caretaker manager. Still on the books as a midfielder, it's surely a personal honour to become the latest last player/manager in the English top flight, usurping Welshman Ryan Giggs, who did the turn for a quartet of matches with Manchester United when David Moyes was sacked.
On the other hand, it's embarrassing for the club. Obviously, the Swans have no plan in place. Until one is, it will continue to serve as a footnote for others' milestones, as it did when Manchester City set the record for successive Premier League wins by thrashing them 4-0.
Britton was thrown a lifeline in the club's last encounter before Christmas. Jordan Ayew's goal captured a point against a Crystal Palace side helmed by the eminently more experienced Roy Hodgson. The point changed little. Swans remain bottom, with 13 points. Coincidentally, that's the gap between City and United at the top. One gets the feeling the latter will increase before the former.
Swansea is by now used to going back to the drawing board to sketch up quick solutions. Perhaps it's time to consider a slower yet more effective approach.
West Brom Albion:
Although it is a point ahead in the standings, the Baggies brain trust isn't far behind Swansea's.
Tony Pulis had a nice debut season at the Hawthorns in 2015. This summer, however, he may have paid to much respect to the league-wide youth movement, allowing Darren Fletcher to depart for Stoke City. With his captain missing, the Welshman suddenly found it difficult to communicate his simple methods to the new squad. The board showed complete insensitivity, sacking Pulis on the same day his son was appointed to his first senior managerial post in the US, even though the time difference gave them seven hours advance notice.
To cast further doubt on their supposed urgency, it was nine days after his dismissal that Alan Pardew was appointed. The journeyman boss has had little more effect on his new club than Britton. West Brom’s performances are still hugely below par. The last time West Brom won a Premier League match was four months ago, a one-nil victory over Burnley. Since then they've drawn eight, lost nine, some, like the 4-0 rout to Chelsea, very lopsided and un-Pulis-like.
Pardew’s appointment will be questioned if he fails to get West Brom out of the relegation oceans. In certain circles, it already is. The team should be focused on its Boxing Day fixture rather than Christmas festivities.
Call me Scrooge all you like, it's true.