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Mel aims to be calm under pressure


Pepe Mel acknowledges that West Brom need to start winning matches

Pepe Mel acknowledges that West Brom need to start winning matches

Pepe Mel acknowledges that West Brom need to start winning matches

West Brom head coach Pepe Mel has admitted he is a man under pressure as he attempts to keep the Baggies in the Barclays Premier League.

Mel has only been in charge for three matches since taking over from the sacked Steve Clarke, but there are signs his Spanish revolution is beginning to take shape.

Mel has been determined to instil in his players a more pressing, attacking style of play, and so far it has yielded draws at home to Everton and Liverpool, as well as losing 4-3 at Aston Villa after being 2-0 up inside the opening 10 minutes.

But with the club only enjoying one win from their last 14 league matches overall, Mel knows he has to start collecting three points if Albion are to avoid the drop this season.

"We played well in the second half against Everton, in the first 25 to 30 minutes at Villa, again for 15 to 20 minutes against Liverpool in the first half and throughout the second half," assessed Mel.

"But I know we need 90-minute performances, and I hope we get them soon because we need to take three points.

"In March, April, we need to be calm, to know we are in the Premier League for next season."

Asked if he was under pressure to win games, Mel replied: "Yes, I am the head coach.

"I know it's important to win matches because West Brom need to stay in the Premier League.

"It's about precision. I need to change things, and the last match (a 1-1 draw with Liverpool) was better."

Attempting to change the playing philosophy of a team midway through a season would appear to be foolhardy.

But Mel believes the players are embracing his ideas as he added: "The players want to play this way, which is very important.

"We've only had three weeks on the training ground trying to learn to play this way.

"For example, against Liverpool, 32 per cent of all our regains (getting the ball back) were in the opposition half, and for West Brom that is a very, very good day. This is the way for me."

West Brom's next match, however, is a crunch relegation clash at Crystal Palace on Saturday, the team directly below them in the table.

With Albion one point and two places above the drop zone, Mel is fully aware of the English expression of a 'must-win game'.

"Crystal Palace will be saying the same," said Mel, acknowledging the Eagles are "a strong team" at Selhurst Park, playing the game in a very direct, English manner.

"They know how to play this type of football. It's automatic for them, and for me they play it very, very well.

"When all the players know how to play that way then it's good, and I've seen them play at home and they've done well.

"Their head coach (Tony Pulis) is a good coach in convincing his players to play that way."

Suggested Palace are also very physical, Mel added: "Football is a game for men, about tackling.

"It's not only about passing, keeping the ball. It's everything, which is why for me Crystal Palace are a good team.

"The most important thing is my players have a good mentality, they keep the ball, move quickly in attack and are compact in defending."

Mel is likely to hand a debut to new striker Thievy Bifouma, signed on loan for the rest of the season from Espanyol, although the 21-year-old will start on the bench.

Midfielder James Morrison returns after missing the Liverpool match with a calf injury, but defender Jonas Olsson (hamstring) and strikers Nicolas Anelka (knee) and Stephane Sessegnon (groin) remain sidelined.