Tony Pulis: West Bromwich Albion boss expects Premier League concertina effect
West Bromwich Albion head coach Tony Pulis is expecting this season's battle for Premier League survival to be tougher than ever before.
The Baggies have slumped to within two points of the relegation zone after a winless seven-match league run in which they have picked up just four points out of a possible 21.
"It's going to be concertinaed. It's going to be tight," Pulis told BBC WM.
"I think this year it's going to be tougher than any year."
Speaking after Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Southampton, the 59-year-old added: "If you look at the clubs who have come up, Newcastle are going to be very good at home because of their support and Rafa Benitez is a top manager who will have them very well organised.
"I don't think any other promoted clubs have spent the amount that Brighton and Huddersfield have spent on players. They've come in strong.
"Every game is going to be tough, which is as it should be."
Albion are due to play three of the Premier League's current top four in their next four matches - leaders Manchester City and fourth-placed Chelsea in successive games at home, as well as trips to third-placed Spurs and revitalised Huddersfield.
Albion in the Premier League
Now in their eighth successive season in the top flight, Albion have so far been in just two real relegation scrapes, when Roy Hodgson kept them up in 2011 and when they survived narrowly under Pepe Mel in 2014.
- 2009-10: Promoted under Roberto di Matteo
- 2010-11: 11th (47 pts) under Di Matteo/Roy Hodgson
- 2011-12: 10th (47 pts) under Hodgson
- 2012-13: 8th (49 pts) under Steve Clarke
- 2013-14: 17th (36 pts) under Clarke/Keith Downing/Pepe Mel
- 2014-15: 13th (44 pts) under Alan Irvine/Tony Pulis
- 2015-16: 14th (43 pts) under Pulis
- 2016-17: 10th (45 pts) under Pulis
- 2017-18: 13th (10 pts from nine games)
'Fine margins' at St Mary's
Approaching the third anniversary of Pulis' appointment in January 2015, Albion's latest defeat came with the added cost of injuries to Jonny Evans (groin), Gareth Barry (hamstring) and Craig Dawson (knee), whose exit left the visitors down to 10 men for the final few minutes.
But Pulis pointed out that the game could have gone the other way had his side not made key errors at both ends of the pitch, former Southampton striker Jay Rodriguez having missed a great chance 25 minutes prior to Saints substitute Sofiane Boufal's virtuoso late winner.
"In the first half we didn't show any threat," said Pulis. "Then we changed it and we missed the best chance. If Jay scores that, it's a different game. But it's fine margins.
"People say their winner was a great goal but he's gone past too many players. We know the kid's got unbelievable talent. We've watched him. He does extraordinary things but, with at least two of our challenges, we could have done better.
"It was our second away game in five days after Leicester on Monday night. That was a tough game and Southampton are a good team too. They were in the top 10 last season and got to a cup final.
"It's not easy to come to these places. But we're outside the top 6 and you need to win games, especially the home games."
Albion boss Tony Pulis was talking to BBC WM's Rob Gurney