Match of the Day 2 analysis

There is a common theme with most of the teams in the bottom half of the Premier League – they appear to be so afraid of losing, that they do not even try to win.

It is only Crystal Palace and, in the past couple of weeks, West Ham who seem to have been willing to take a few chances and go on the attack in matches – and we have seen them both climb the table.

But with many of the struggling teams I have watched recently, they only start throwing men forward at a stage of the game where they probably think they have nothing to lose.

I saw exactly that from West Brom against Manchester United on Sunday. Even when they went 2-0 down, the Baggies did not offer much of a threat, and it was only with about 20-25 minutes left that they started to have a go at Jose Mourinho’s side.

Gareth Barry scores for West Brom against Manchester United

Gareth Barry pulled a goal back from a corner with 13 minutes to go, but West Brom lost 2-1

West Brom boss Alan Pardew switched to a 4-4-2, brought on Jay Rodriguez, and went on the front foot for the first time. They looked dangerous, especially at set-pieces.

That lifted the crowd at The Hawthorns, especially when they got a goal back, and all of a sudden I thought they might actually get something out of the game.

Until then, it was far too easy for United, but they were hanging on at the end.

Pressure is stifling performances and tactics

At least Pardew saw his side score for the first time, in his fourth game as West Brom manager.

But he has inherited a team short of goals – they have managed only 13 in 18 league games this season – who also struggle to create chances.

Pardew’s teams usually attack and he promised fans they would play that way when he was appointed at the end of November.

But that did not happen in the first half on Sunday. West Brom played very deep and their players did not take many chances because they did not want to leave themselves open.

As Pardew explained afterwards, his side got a good result against Liverpool in midweek with a 0-0 draw at Anfield, and he went with the same team and a similar approach, instead of trying to get at United.

You can pick up points purely by defending, of course, but you have got a better chance of winning games by going on the attack – especially at home.

And, if you are losing games anyway, then at least do it while you are trying to win them.

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‘When West Brom get to 40 points I’ll have a wine!’

I remember when Blackpool were in the Premier League in the 2010-11 season, and they just went for it every week. They were so attacking they were almost gung-ho, but they did not just entertain, they won games too.

Blackpool did not stay up – they went down on the final day – but at least when they were relegated, they could look back and say ‘we gave it a right go’.

Not many teams in the bottom half of the table can say that right now.

Undoubtedly pressure comes into their thinking – it feels as if the financial price of losing your place in the Premier League is suffocating a few teams, and stifling their tactics and their performances.

Baggies looked flat, and Bournemouth did too

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West Brom 1-2 Man Utd: Alan Pardew admits he made a mistake with his team selection

In West Brom’s defence, they had a tough game against Liverpool on Wednesday and it was the same for Bournemouth, who were rolled over by Jurgen Klopp’s side on Sunday, less than four days after going to Old Trafford.

Three-game weeks are difficult for the teams with smaller squads at the bottom of the Premier League and for different reasons I am sure that was a factor for West Brom and Bournemouth both being so flat.

Pardew said afterwards that he wished he had made more changes but the Cherries made plenty, and it seemed to disrupt them.

I associate Eddie Howe’s team with energy and commitment, and goals are not usually a problem for them – only six Premier League teams scored more last season.

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We lacked rhythm – Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe

They did not lack commitment against Liverpool but they did look off the pace. They did not really get close to Klopp’s players, and most of the time there was no spark when they were on the ball either.

Bournemouth have taken only two points from their past six games and are back in the bottom five.

West Brom are second-bottom and, on the face of it, in deeper trouble, but there are other teams down there that I would worry about more.

Swansea need to spend, or they are in serious trouble

Premier League - bottom six snapshot: West Ham in 15th, Bournemouth in 16th, Stoke in 17th, Newcastle in 18th, West Brom in 19th and Swansea in 20th

When I look at the bottom of the table, I would put Swansea and Newcastle in the same bracket.

Unless they invest heavily in the January transfer window, and we are talking about them buying three or four players apiece, then they are both in serious trouble.

Swansea play Everton on Monday night and are up against Gylfi Sigurdsson, whom they sold to the Toffees for £45m in August and did not replace.

They have not spent the £14m or so they got from Tottenham for Fernando Llorente either, so they have got money to spend if Paul Clement can bring in the players he wants.

It is not easy to attract signings when you are bottom of the table but Clement needs to find players who will provide some power and pace, and a bit of toughness too, because Swansea look like they are a side that are quite weak physically.

Newcastle, meanwhile, are in total free-fall after taking one point from their past nine games.

The prospective takeover of the club by Amanda Staveley needs to happen, because otherwise things look pretty bleak.

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Arsenal 1-0 Newcastle: We need players in January – Rafael Benitez

Stoke’s issue is not with scoring goals

West Brom are the other club in the relegation zone at the moment and they will also need to strengthen in January but, with Pardew in charge, I think they have enough experience to get out of trouble.

In terms of other relegation candidates, you are then looking at Huddersfield and Brighton. Both sides have been short of goals – or at least Huddersfield were until scoring seven in their past three matches.

At the moment, they have a bit more breathing space than the other teams I have been talking about, but they still have an awful lot of work to do to reach safety.

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‘Mark Hughes is on the brink at Stoke’ – Match of the Day 2 Extra pundits

Scoring goals is not the only problem the struggling teams have, however. Stoke are also on a poor run and their biggest issue is with their defending.

They have plenty of quality when they go forward, but have become a soft touch when it comes to conceding goals.

In the past, teams went to the Bet365 Stadium expecting a tough game, but now it looks as if the floodgates are open. That needs to change, otherwise they will end up in the bottom three.

Phil Neville was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.

News Reporter

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