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Fan Focus: 'Big Vic Sunderland's main threat if fit', says Baggies fan Mark Thomas!

Mark Thomas is fast becoming our resident Baggies correspondent and he's back again to have a bit o' crack about Pulis, Berahino and Saturday's match.

Dan Abbott | RokerReport.com

RF: When we spoke back in September you said that most Baggies fans would be happy to see Tony Pulis part ways with the club. Since then though, you've really picked up and are 8th in the league. Is Big Tone back in everyone's good books now?

MT: I certainly wouldn't say everybody. There's still a good number of fans that would like to see the back of him as soon as possible but the club's recent form and league position has certainly quietened a few of his critics.

All fans wanted really was to be able to enjoy games a little more. There's only so many ultra-defensive displays you can watch before it gets tiresome yet that was seemingly the team's tactic week after week for a spell. This season has been much better though and Pulis has to take some credit for releasing the shackles a little.

RF: Pulis has been getting a lot of joy by using players who are ideal for his system. Is that a factor behind Nacer Chadli not getting as much of a look in lately?

MT: Chadli was fantastic in his first few games for the club - he really did look a different class to anything else we had. He then picked up a knee injury which unfortunately for him coincided with a good run of results for Pulis' side.

With the influential midfield duo of Chris Brunt and James Morrison both returning from long-term injuries, Chadli's absence was not as big a blow as supporters feared it would be. On returning from his own injury, Chadli has yet to rediscover his early-season form and at the moment probably does not deserve a starting place.

RF: Do you expect the new owners to give the manager quite a wedge of cash this month? If so, where needs strengthening?

MT: The club are reportedly making serious attempts to sign Watford striker Odion Ighalo and Southampton's Jose Fonte. This following on from the attempts to sign Morgan Schneiderlin suggests that the new owners certainly are backing Pulis in the transfer market.

As for what areas need strengthening we are desperately short of quality options in the centre of defence and up front. We are also badly lacking players with pace, we really must have one of the slowest squads in football.

RF: I know you must get sick of talking about him but since the transfer window is open, will Saido Berahino finally leave the club this month? From the outside, it doesn't seem like he will be a huge miss.

MT: I think everyone hopes that he does finally depart The Hawthorns this month, if only to end the seemingly never ending circus surrounding him. An in-form, fully fit and fully motivated Berahino would be a fantastic asset for any team, but at the moment, like you say, he really wouldn't be missed in the slightest IF he does finally leave.

RF: Matt Phillips is having a good season, is he the main threat to Sunderland? Anyone else in a nice run of form at the moment?

MT: Following a slow start to his Albion career, Phillips has definitely become our biggest threat. He's added pace, creativity and goals to the team and has been a big factor behind our improved performances this season.

As for the others, Ben Foster has been head and shoulders above everyone else recently. I refuse to believe there's an English goalkeeper in better form at the minute.

RF: Who (if anyone) worries you in the Sunderland side?

MT: Has to be 'Big Vic' doesn't it. If he’s fit, that is.

On his day he can be unplayable, sadly he didn't have many of those days whilst with the Baggies.

RF: Pulis will be looking for a reaction after last weeks defeat to Spurs, so how do you see him approaching this game and what do you think the starting line up will be?

MT: I think he has to target this game as a good chance to get three points and I would expect him to be a bit more adventurous with his tactics than he was at Spurs last weekend.

Pulis will be hoping to have defensive duo Jonny Evans and Allan Nyom back and if the pair do return I'd expect us to line up with Foster in goal, Dawson, McAuley, Evans and Nyom across the back, Yacob and Fletcher as the holding midfielders, Brunt and Phillips out wide and Chadli playing behind the lone striker Rondon. If Nyom and Evans miss out expect to see Olsson in the centre of defence with Brunt at left-back - Morrison taking his place in midfield.

RF: Let's finish it all off with a score prediction...

MT: Given Sunderland's struggles and our recent home form you would expect Albion to pick up all three points but I'm not so sure. After a tough run of fixtures which culminated in defeat at Spurs, we may be a little jaded and with the visitors desperate for points I can see a tight game with not too many chances. I'll go 1-1.


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