The Baggies have forced themselves into the yearly top flight conversation, as they make their way towards their seventh consecutive season in England’s top flight, but could this be the year things go sour?
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Since promotion in 2008, West Brom have gone from perennial relegation candidates to mid-table contenders. However, yet still to take that next step towards a top-half finish, a poor finish to last campaign and a quiet transfer window has supporters worried headed into the 2016/17 season.
West Brom failed to record a single win in their final nine league games of the season headed into this summer, and the stretch run is often a relatively solid litmus test of what is to come.
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The club has added Matt Phillips from QPR in the summer to replace the departed Stephane Sessegnon, but still have yet to find a reinforcement for Nigerian striker Victor Anichebe, and with Saido Berahino coming off a very poor season, the attacking ranks are quite thin. The club was ready to break its transfer record for Diafra Sakho, but the player had some fitness concerns and the deal was scrapped.
Chris Brunt, a Baggie since 2007, is coming off an ACL tear that left his chances of playing in Euro 2016 in tatters, and could be replaced by one of a host of different West Brom defenders in the squad.
The Baggies will make a move up the table if…they grasp Pulis-ball to the fullest, play for their manager, and get a few attacking reinforcements. The squad as it stands is not relegation quality, but without another attacker and a focused Berahino, the strike unit is very underwhelming. If this team can figure out how to score goals to go along with the defensive work rate, the club will end up with more than a few impressive results.
More likely, however, they’ll be near the bottom again…Berahino still could be off. While the club usually leaves things to the end of the transfer window, the way things stand is somewhat worrisome. Nobody outside of Rondon hit double-digit goal tally last season across all competitions, and a right-back was their second-leading scorer. Goals are the key to success this season.
Best Possible XI
—– Myhill —–
— Dawson — McAuley — Evans — Chester —
—– Yacob —–
—-Phillips —- Gardner —- Fletcher —- McLean —-
—— Rondon ——
Transfers In: Matt Phillips ($7m, Queens Park Rangers).
Transfers Out: Victor Anichebe (Free, Unattached), Anders Lindegaard (Free, Preston North End), Stephane Sessegnon (Free, Unattached).
Last Season: The Baggies did just enough last season to remain relatively obscure for most of the year. They hovered around the 12-15 position for almost the entire year, Tony Pulis‘s first full campaign with the club after saving them from relegation the last. Unfortunately, the nine-match winless run to end the year is most fresh on the supporters’ minds, and Pulis will need to put that to bed with a solid start to this new season to keep in the good graces of his bosses.
Star Player: Saido Berahino – Salomon Rondon was last year’s top goalscorer, but the brightest talent on the squad is the 21-year-old…or so we thought. After the club fought tooth and nail to keep him at the Hawthornes, fending off interest from plenty top-tier English clubs, Berahino rewarded them with a paltry four league goals last season, including just one after November. It was looking like he could be headed elsewhere should the club sign Sakho, but with that transfer off, they may not be able to afford selling Berahino, meaning they’ll need him to produce. He seemed disinterested for much of last season, and was a fringe player as a result. If he wants to return to the starting lineup, he’ll need to prove his intentions are pure, and the best way to do that is by putting the ball in the back of the net.
Coach’s Corner: Tony Pulis is known for his direct style of play, and it fits perfectly with the squad available to him at the Hawthornes. Pulis-ball will be back and bigger than ever this year, and they’ll need to deliver for their experienced boss if they have any hopes of staying in the league. Pulis is an expert in avoiding the drop, but not much else, having personally finished between 11th and 14th for eight consecutive seasons.
PST Predicts: West Brom will find them outside the relegation zone, but only because there are even thinner squads out there. It’s going to be a struggle this year, with few attacking options outside the unsettled Berahino, but the squad has enough defensive experience and depth to make it through unscathed. Pulis just flat out doesn’t get relegated.