So, the Monk experiment is over and Boro have appointed old man Tony Pulis. It’s sure to be a divisive appointment; some will see him as a steady, experienced hand to guide the side into the play-offs, but others will see his negative brand of football as a massive step backwards. I’ve looked at the pros and cons of his appointment.
PRO: Plenty of experience
Pulis has been managing for 25 years. That’s more than Boro’s last three managers combined! During that time he’s probably seen pretty much everything – every type of team, every type of player, every type of chairman. You can imagine he will walk in and command the respect of all the players in the squad and immediately put his stamp on the team. That might be just what Boro need right now following a prolonged period of chaos and uncertainty.
CON: Negative playing style
One of the big issues that many have with his appointment. Pulis is renowned for playing defensive, long-ball football. If fans were frustrated with Karanka’s playing style, Pulis will drive them mad. Fans of West Brom will attest to the joyless and soul-sapping experience of watching a Pulis team. He is so used to playing for draws or narrow defeats, that suddenly trying to inspire a team to win more than they lose could be difficult transition.
PRO: Defensive organisation
If there’s one thing Pulis knows, it is how to organise and discipline a defence. After the shambolic nature of Boro’s recent displays, this might be a breath of fresh air, but only if he can get the attack to click as well.
CON: Getting the best out of attacking talent
If defensive organisation was one of Monk’s weaknesses, his other was failing to get the attack to click into gear. At West Brom this season, Pulis failed to find any kind of attacking potency. Attacking players like Nacer Chadli, Oliver Burke, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Salomon Rondon were all wasted on Pulis as he not only parked the bus but locked it in the garage without the key. Can he be trusted with Gibson’s expensive toys?
PRO: Has a better squad at his disposal
Pulis might have a reputation for dour, defensive football but that can partly be explained by the fact he has been managing small clubs with small budgets in the Premier League. Surrounded by big spending teams, maybe he had to take a safety-first approach to survive. Now with one of the best squads in the division, he might be able to afford a bit more attacking freedom. The solid defence and direct style will still be evident, but with a host of attacking talent at his disposal he might be able to find a good balance.
CON: Survival specialist
Pulis has carved out a reputation as a survival specialist and ‘firefighter’ ever since he got Stoke promoted in 2008. His modus operandi seems to be take over a team in trouble, steady the ship, and pick up enough points to avoid relegation. Even in the last couple of seasons at West Brom, when this target was achieved early in the season, he didn’t seem capable of getting his team to push on. It felt like 40 points was always his glass ceiling. He might now have a better squad at his disposal, but can he change his mindset enough? Will he be able to find a way of getting a team to win more than they lose?
PRO: Best available option
Of the managers realistically available Pulis was probably the safest and best option. The bookies odds made pretty grim reading, and when people are even calling for Karanka to come back you know it’s getting a bit desperate.
CON: No recent promotion experience
Many people have been raving about how Pulis brings ‘proven experience of promotion’, but he has only ever been promoted twice in his career. His first promotion was from the old third division with Gillingham in 1996, and the other was Stoke from the Championship in 2008. That second promotion comes with a caveat though – Stoke were promoted as runners-up with 79 points. Only one season since would that have been enough to be promoted, and last season that wouldn’t have even been enough for the play-offs. Furthermore, the Championship has moved on since then – there is generally a lot more quality and simply trying to out-Pulis the other teams in the division might not work anymore.