Tony Pulis’ position at West Brom looks increasingly under threat after Chelsea inflicted the joint-heaviest defeat of his near three-year reign at The Hawthorns.
A brace from Eden Hazard and efforts from Alvaro Morata and Marcos Alonso saw the Blues coast to a 4-0 success, their fourth successive triumph in the Premier League, at the venue where they clinched the title six months ago.
Pulis had said on Friday he would understand if he was axed following a run of poor recent results and this defeat, which took them to 11 games without a victory, was witnessed by Chinese owner Guochuan Lai and a home crowd that delivered their verdict with a loud chorus of ‘Pulis out’ at the end.
Pulis had used his programme notes to staunchly defend his record, referencing a trio of mid-table finishes and the Baggies’ strong financial position.
For such a pivotal contest he restored Matt Phillips at right wing-back and things may have been different had Salomon Rondon, another recalled to the starting XI, stayed onside from the Scot’s cross when he squeezed a header under Thibaut Courtois in the fifth minute.
He was marginally offside, though, and once Chelsea took control with the opener in the 17th minute they never looked back.
The first was instigated by Hazard, who moments earlier had received little sympathy from West Brom players and fans alike while laying injured. The Belgian rolled past Gareth Barry and rifled in a shot that Ben Foster could only push into Morata’s path, with the Spaniard able to do the rest, much to a pumped-up Hazard’s delight.
The roles were reversed for Chelsea’s second six minutes later, which came after Hazard had been booked for clattering into Grzegorz Krychowiak. Cesc Fabregas rolled a pass into Morata and the forward, with his back to goal, sent a fine first-time flick through for Hazard with his instep that he was able to reach, rounding Foster to double the visitors’ advantage.
Even allowing for Morata’s brilliance, there was far too much space for Hazard to utilise and the third goal was even sloppier from a West Brom perspective.
Pulis’ teams are renowned for their strength at set-pieces so he must have been fuming to see Alonso left all alone at the back post to convert Fabregas’ free-kick.
With their team conceding three times in 21 minutes, some of those Albion fans that had not rushed out early at half-time were chanting ‘Tony Pulis, get out of our club’.
His response at the start of the second half was to introduce the spirited Claudio Yacob for the ineffective Krychowiak and within minutes the new arrival was in the face of Fabregas and Morata.
He was irked by Fabregas being booked for diving when Gareth McAuley won the ball, although replays showed deeming it theatrical was harsh, with referee Jon Moss cautioning Rondon at the other end for the same crime.
Chelsea were in cruise control and could turn attention to the long midweek trip to Qarabag when Hazard added another in the 62nd minute.
Once more he was allowed a copious amount of space when Fabregas spotted him, and Hazard brought the ball down, moved inside Ahmed Hegazi and picked his spot to make it 4-0.
That was enough for some in The Hawthorrns as the stands started to empty to a smattering of ‘Pulis out’.
It was a cry that got far louder just before a full-time whistle that may be the last Pulis hears as West Brom boss.