End of Anelka debacle could be catalyst to save Albion’s season
West Bromwich Albion this week got two monkeys off their backs. Pepe Mel finally got his first win as Baggies manager at the eighth attempt, and Friday finally saw an end to the Nicolas Anelka saga which has hung over the Hawthorns since their 3-3 draw at West Ham in December.
March 17th, 2014
It is the latter of these two events that has concerned most Albion fans more in recent weeks. Despite some poor first-half performances, there have been signs of improvement in patches. Pepe Mel’s high-tempo game has won admirers even though it hasn’t yielded as many points as we would have hoped so far. Stunning second half performances against Liverpool, Everton, Chelsea and most recently this weekend against Swansea has given Baggies fans cause for optimism that they can get themselves out of trouble if they can just start performing from the start of games.
But it is the off field problems that have been plaguing Albion all season that have been the real reason behind their poor form this year. The departure of Dan Ashworth hit Albion hard and consequently, the prolonged appointment of Pepe Mel along with backroom discontent has caused ripples within the squad. Nicolas Anelka’s quenelle gesture only added to Albion’s problems and with the striker banned for five games, both he and the club felt it was right to part ways. Whether it was Anelka or Albion’s decision, I believe this was the correct move for both club and player at this stage of the season. I was full of hope when Anelka signed and was prepared to give him a chance when others around me were lambasting him for a series of disappointing displays. But the quenelle gesture at Upton Park was the last straw for myself and ultimately, the Albion hierarchy. His five-game ban and refusal to apologise for any wrongdoing forced the hand of the Baggies board and his contract was finally terminated, a move that should have probably been made a couple of months ago.
Now with Anelka out of the club, The Baggies can concentrate on playing football and trying to secure the results they require without any of the off-field problems hanging over their heads.
The result on Saturday shows that Albion are more than capable of performing well and getting results, even when faced with early setbacks. They must now continue to buy into Pepe Mel’s style of play and carry the form and belief into the next game.
With the backroom shake up now complete and the Anelka saga at an end, Albion no longer have any excuses and must let their football do the talking. They must start performing from the start of games and get the results that we know they are capable of from now until the end of the season.