West Bromwich Albion manager, Tony Pulis has delivered a staunch defence of misfiring Venezuelan striker Salomon Rondon, repudiating suggestions that the player’s travails in front of goal are related to interest from China.
Rondon has not scored since registering a hat-trick against Swansea on 14th December, a drought encompassing 16 Premier League outings. In that time, Northern Ireland central defender, Gareth McAuley has drawn level with the forward as the club’s top scorer, with a modest tally of seven, prompting some supporters to question when the forward will score again.
The 27-year-old was industrious enough during Albion’s second home defeat of 2017 against Southampton but appeared shorn of confidence, particularly once a textbook header elicited a wonderful save from Fraser Forster in the first period.
And Pulis rejected more sinister accusations linking Rondon’s downturn to Albion’s refusal to sanction a £32 million transfer to Chinese Super League club Tianjin Quanjian in January.
“No, I think there have been other things back home that have gone on. I can't go into detail but there is something else on his mind which he has to worry about,” Pulis said.
“I wouldn't say it is the interest from China, not at all.
“Everything has been fine but there has been a problem back home that is getting better for him which is good. We are pleased with that. He just needs a goal. He needs one to go in off the back of his head. Even second half he had an opportunity, he just needs that one break but he is not getting it at the moment.”
“The great thing has been the supporters. Lots of supporters come in for criticism at times for losing faith quickly and going against people. But they have been really good with Salomon, he is going through a bad time but I think the supporters have been fantastic with him.”
In contrast, Dusan Tadic - who has at times enjoyed a fractious relationship with his manager Claude Puel - delivered an assured display. The Serb exuded quality and his presence of mind allowed Jordy Clasie to score the decisive goal for the Saints, who are now four points behind Albion, in eighth, with two games in hand.
“I think all the teams know the quality of Dusan,” Puel said.
“It is important with his quality and character to keep this level of performance. It is important for him and us”.