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Premier League 2017-18 preview – West Bromwich Albion

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West Brom is an interesting case. With Tony Pulis leading the way, the Baggies have not truly flirted with relegation since their 17th-place finish in 2014 that saw them finish just three points above the drop. But with finishes of 13th, 14th, and 10th since then, what exactly defines a successful season for the Baggies?

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Premier League obscurity is not a bad thing anymore. With the massive amounts of cash that come with a spot in the English top flight, a long stretch of bottom-half finishes could see the club amass money to eventually become a major player in the market. Clearly, West Brom is biding its time until the club can make a serious move, although the risky acquisition of Jay Rodriguez proves ambition. However, with teams constantly improving around them, the Baggies did little business this summer, which is worrying.

Best, worst case scenarios – The most Baggies fans can usually hope for is Premier League safety, but did last season’s 10th-placed finish change the expectations? Growth is always what any club hopes to achieve, whether it be short-term or long-term, and now fans will be looking for a top-half spot. The Baggies have just one other Premier League top-half finish ever, coming in 2012/13 just before the relegation scare. It would seem the best-case scenario would be for West Brom to match that achievement with hopes of long-term growth from there.

Worst-case would see this club relegated. There is no true star-power on the squad, and while Tony Pulis has a steady ship currently, it’s not hard to envision a few poor results spiraling things out of control.


Best possible XI is…

Foster

Dawson — Evans — McAuley — Nyom

Livermore — Yacob

Phillips — Morrison — Chadli

Rondon


[ MORE: 2017-18 PL season preview hub ] 

Transfers In: Jay Rodriguez (Southampton, $16 million), Ahmed Hegazy (Al Alhy, Loan).

Transfers Out: Craig Gardner (Birmingham, $2 million), Sebastian Pocognoli (Standard Liege, Free), Darren Fletcher (Stoke City, Free).

Last season: 

— 10th place in Premier League
— FA Cup 3rd Round (lost to Derby County)
— League Cup 2nd Round (lost to Northampton Town)

Star Player: Matt Phillips — With Nacer Chadli struggling for consistency on a team that utilizes the flanks, Matt Phillips is the engine to the machine. With nine assists last season to lead the team in his first season with the Baggies, Phillips is a critical part of a team that doesn’t attack a whole lot.

Unfortunatley, Phillips tweaked his hamstring in preseason, and according to manager Tony Pulis, it could be related to repeated back problems the 26-year-old struggles with. If those two problems keep him out for any significant amount of time, West Brom will have to lean on Chadli, who flashes brilliance at times but also tends to disappear quite often. That was evident last season when he made 31 Premier League appearances, but only completed the full 90 minutes 10 times. This team needs Phillips.

Coach’s Corner: Tony Pulis — Pulis has provided a steady presence wherever he goes. He locks teams down, turns them into a disciplined machine, and grinds out results. West Brom sorely needed his presence when he arrived, and now growth seems attainable. The 59-year-old doesn’t bring an exciting style of play, but occasionally the excitement arrives in the surprising results. Last season, the Baggies took care of business against teams below them and upset Arsenal down the stretch.

PST Predicts: The key this season is to stay healthy and avoiding long stretches of failure. If Phillips is indeed injured for a while, there’s not much depth for the Baggies to fall back on. Most worrying is the nine-match winless run to finish the season last year, which featured seven losses. Often, that can be a harbinger of how things will go the following campaign, especially considering the squad hardly turned over this summer. It would be great to see Tony Pulis take this team into the top half two years in a row, but more likely they will end up looking over their shoulders in 14th.

Club-by-club list of Premier League winter transfers

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Here’s a full list of ins and outs, loans and permanent transfers, from around the Premier League.

[ MORE: January 2017 transfer news ]

Arsenal

In: Cohen Bramall (Hednesford Town)

Out: Gedion Zelalem (VVV Venlo, loan), Dan Crowley (Go Ahead Eagles, loan), Kaylen Hinds (Stevenage Borough, loan), Chuba Akpom (Brighton & Hove Albion, loan)

Bournemouth

In: Aaron Ramsdale (Sheffield United)

Out: Nathan Ake (Chelsea), Emerson Hyndman (Rangers, loan), Callum Buckley (Aldershot Town, loan), Glenn Murray (Brighton & Hove Albion), Lewis Grabban (Reading, loan), Joe Quigley (Gillingham, loan), Jordan Green (Leyton Orient, loan), Harry Cornick (Gillingham, loan), Matt Neale (Wimborne Town, loan), Marc Wilson (West Bromwich Albion, loan)

Burnley

In: Joey Barton (unattached), Ashley Westwood (Aston Villa), Robbie Brady (Norwich City)

Out: Danny Lafferty (Sheffield United), Chris Long (Bolton, loan)

Chelsea

In: Nathan Ake (Bournemouth, loan recall)

Out: Oscar (Shanghai SIPG), John Mikel Obi (Tianjin TEDA), Patrick Bamford (Middlesbrough), Dion Conroy (Swindon Town), Marco Van Ginkel (PSV Eindhoven, loan), Jay Dasilva (Charlton, loan), Isaiah Brown (Huddersfield Town, loan), Fankaty Dabo (Swindon Town, loan), Charlie Colkett (Swindon Town, loan), Fikayo Tomori (Brighton & Hove Albion, loan), Mukhtar Ali (Vitesse Arnhem, loan)

Crystal Palace

In: Jeff Schlupp (Leicester City), Patrick Van Aanholt (Sunderland), Luka Milivojevic (Olympiacos), Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool)

Out: Jordon Mutch (Reading, loan), Keshi Anderson (Northampton Town, loan), Freddie Ladapo (Shrewsbury Town, loan)

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: Jeffrey Schlupp of Leicester City (L) and N'Golo Kante of Chelsea (R) battle for possession during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on October 15, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Everton

In: Morgan Schneiderlin (Manchester United), Ademola Lookman (Charlton), Anton Donkor (Wolfsburg, loan)

Out: Tom Cleverley (Watford, loan), Oumar Niasse (Hull City, loan), Gerard Deulofeu (Milan, loan), Bryan Oviedo (Sunderland), Darron Gibson (Sunderland), Antony Evans (Morecambe, loan), Gethin Jones (Barnsley, loan), Russell Griffiths (Motherwell, loan), Tyias Browning (Preston North End, loan), Conor McAleny (Oxford United, loan), Steven Kinsella (Dundalk, loan)

Hull City

In: Kamil Grosicki (Rennes), Oumar Niasse (Everton, loan), Markus Henriksen (AZ Alkmaar), Evandro (Porto), Omar Elabdellaoui (Olympiacos, loan), Lazar Markovic (Liverpool, loan), Andrea Rannochia (Inter Milan, loan), Alfred N'Diaye (Villarreal, loan)

Out: Jake Livermore (West Brom), Alex Bruce (Wigan, loan), James Weir (Wigan, loan), Robert Snodgrass (West Ham), Allan McGregor (Cardiff City, loan), Harvey Rodgers (Accrington Stanley, loan), Jonathan Edwards (Accrington Stanley, loan)

Leicester City

In: Wilfried Ndidi (Genk), Molla Wague (Granada)

Out: Jeff Schlupp (Crystal Palace), Luis Hernandez (Malaga), Harvey Barnes (MK Dons, loan), Matty James (Barnsley, loan), Callum Elder (Barnsley, loan)

Liverpool

Out: Pedro Chirivella (Go Ahead Eagles, loan), Tiago Ilori (Reading), Lazar Markovic (Hull City, loan), Cameron Brannagan (Fleetwood Town, loan), Mamadou Sakho (Crystal Palace, loan)

Manchester City

In: Gabriel Jesus (Palmeiras)

Out: Pablo Maffeo (Girona, loan), Angelino (Girona, loan), Manu Garcia (NAC Breda, loan), Bruno Zuculini (Hellas Verona, loan), Billy O’Brien (St. Mirren, loan), David Faupala (Chesterfield, loan), George Glendon (Fleetwood Town)

Manchester United

Out: Morgan Schneiderlin (Everton), Memphis Depay (Lyon), Sam Johnston (Aston Villa, loan), Joe Riley (Sheffield United, loan), Sean Goss (QPR)

Middlesbrough

In: Rudy Gestede (Aston Villa), Patrick Bamford (Chelsea), Adlene Guedioura (Watford), Mikael Soisalo (Ilves Tampere)

Out: David Nugent (Derby County), Julien De Sart (Derby County, loan), Tomas Mejias (Rayo Vallecano, loan), Emilio Nsue (Birmingham City), Bryn Morris (Shrewsbury Town), Mark Kitching (Rochdale, loan)

Southampton

In: Manolo Gabbiadini (Napoli), Mouez Hassen (Nice, loan)

Out: Jose Fonte (West Ham)

NAPLES, ITALY - DECEMBER 02: Manolo Gabbiadini of Napoli during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and FC Internazionale at Stadio San Paolo on December 2, 2016 in Naples, Italy. (Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images)
Manolo Gabbiadini (Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images)

Stoke City

In: Lee Grant (Derby County), Saido Berahino (West Brom)

Out: Bojan Krkic (Mainz, loan), Jakob Haugaard (Wigan, loan), Ryan Sweeney (Bristol Rovers, loan), Ollie Shenton (Wrexham, loan), Joel Taylor (Rochdale, loan), Dionatan Teixeria (released), Moha El Ouriachi (Hearts, loan), Sergio Molina (Albacete), George Waring (Carlisle United, loan)

Sunderland

In: Joleon Lescott (unattached), Bryan Oviedo (Everton), Darron Gibson (Everton)

Out: Patrick van Aanholt (Crystal Palace), Andrew Nelson (Hartlepool United, loan)

Swansea City

In: Luciano Narsingh (PSV Eindhoven), Martin Olsson (Norwich City), Tom Carroll (Tottenham Hotspur), Jordan Ayew (Aston Villa)

Out: Neil Taylor (Aston Villa), Modou Barrow (Leeds United, loan), Marvin Emnes (Blackburn, loan), Ryan Hedges (Barnsley), Owain Jones (Yeovil Town, loan)

Tottenham Hotspur

Out: Tom Carroll (Swansea City), Anton Walkes (Atlanta United, loan), Ryan Loft (Stevenage, loan), Shayon Harrison (Yeovil Town, loan), Connor Ogilvie (Stevenage, loan), Luke Amos (Southend United, loan).

Watford

In: Tom Cleverley (Everton, loan), Mauro Zarate (Fiorentina), M’Baye Niang (Milan, loan)

Out: Obbi Oulare (Willem II, loan), Odion Ighalo (Changchun Yatai), Adlene Guedioura (Middlesbrough), Michael Folivi (Coventry City, loan), Alex Jakubiak (Wycombe Wanderers, loan), Adalberto Penaranda (Malaga, loan)

West Bromwich Albion

In: Jake Livermore (Hull City), Marc Wilson (Bournemouth, loan)

Out: Callum McManaman (Sheffield Wednesday, loan), Craig Gardner (Birmingham City, loan), Saido Berahino (Stoke City), Tyler Roberts (Shrewsbury Town, loan), Andre Wright (Yeovil Town, loan), Joe Ward (released), Tahvon Campbell (Notts County, loan)

West Ham United

In: Jose Fonte (Southampton), Robert Snodgrass (Hull City)

Out: Dimitri Payet (Marseille), Simone Zaza (Juventus, loan to Valencia), Reece Oxford (Reading, loan), Toni Martinez (Oxford United, loan), Marcus Browne (Wigan, loan), Alex Pike (Cheltenham Town, loan), Sam Howes (Hampton and Richmond Borough, loan), Lewis Page (Charlton), Martin Samuelsen (Peterborough United, loan)

Watch Live: West Bromwich Albion vs. Middlesbrough (Lineups, Live Stream)

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West Bromwich Albion searches for its second win this season on Sunday when they take on Middlesbrough at 8:30 a.m. E.T. from The Hawthorns on CNBC or live online at NBCSports.com.

The Boro holds a narrow advantage in all-time meetings, with four wins out of eight, and Aitor Karanka‘s side certainly have the capabilities to pull off another victory against West Brom following a solid summer in the transfer window.

WATCH LIVE: West Bromwich Albion vs. Middlesbrough live online

Karanka’s men remain unbeaten through two matches, including last weekend’s narrow 2-1 victory over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

West Brom remains largely intact with its starting XI as Salomon Rondon gets the start up front for the Baggies. Tony Pulis‘ side has plenty of options off the bench as well, including Saido Berahino and Craig Gardner to provide a spark.

For Middlesbrough, U.S. international Brad Guzan will get the start in goal for the first time this season, as Victor Valdes remains sidelined with a hamstring injury. Alvaro Negredo looks to continue his fine start to the season after notching a goal and two assists in his first two matches.

LINEUPS

West Bromwich Albion – Foster; Dawson, McAuley, Evans, Galloway; Phillips, Yacob, Fletcher (c), Field, McClean; Rondon.
Bench – Rose; Olsson, Gardner, Lambert, Berahino, Leko, Wilson

Middlesbrough – Guzan, Nsue, Ayala, Gibson, Barragan, Forshaw, Clayton, Stuani, Ramirez, Downing, Negredo.
Bench – 
Dimi, Bernardo, Rhodes, Reach, Fischer, De Sart, Nugent.

Crystal Palace 0-1 West Brom: Rondon header edges Baggies to road win

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Tony Pulis will be glad he didn’t ditch West Brom before the start of the season like he did to Crystal Palace.

Amid questions if he’d resign due to a frustrating transfer window, Pulis guided West Brom to a deserved win at Selhurst Park thanks to a headed goal from Salomon Rondon, with goalkeeper Ben Foster coming up big on multiple occasions to keep the clean sheet.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The visitors were on the attack first, and the Baggies forced Wayne Hennessey into the first save of the game. Craig Gardner‘s cross from high up the left flank reached the head of Rondon, who poked it across to the far post, leaving Hennessey no choice but to parry it away with a dive in the eighth minute.

There was precious little action in front of goal during the opening half, as both sides appeared well off-target on their few half-chances. A header from Rondon off a corner in the 40th minute swung well wide.

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Following the break, Palace looked more up for the game. They forced a big save from Ben Foster as Wilfried Zaha burst through on the counter and smothered the Palace winger. With the ball falling back to the feet of Zaha, he fired on goal again, and again Foster denied him with an acrobatic stop.

Finally, a moment to savor, the visitors went in front. A free-kick from the edge of the right touchline met the head of Rondon, and unlike in the first half, he didn’t miss, glancing it to the far post and putting West Brom in front.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Palace had brought wanted man Yannick Bolasie just before the goal, but he was unable to produce much in front of net as the hosts looked lost in the final third, especially as the game wound down. New signing Andros Townsend was also listless for Palace, as Alan Pardew will have plenty to ponder about his attack moving forward.

West Brom 1-1 Liverpool: Young Liverpool side unable to ensure European play

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Despite the possibility of European play firmly on the line, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp played a largely reserve lineup for the second straight match.

It didn’t work so well last time out. This time, Jordan Ibe ensured a point, but it wasn’t enough to grab Europa League play as the draw means Liverpool finish eighth, outside a possible Europa League place, leaving them with Champions League or bust.

West Brom took the lead on 14 minutes as 17-year-old Jonathan Leko absolutely carved up the Liverpool barricade, cutting down the middle and finding Salomon Rondon who beat Adam Bogdan at his near post to open the scoring.

It would only last until the 23rd minute, when Jordan Ibe brought Liverpool level all on his own. He picked up a pass over the halfway line on the right, and with acres of space, he charged forward, cut inside, and rifled into the bottom corner to bring Liverpool level.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Straight off halftime, West Brom nearly went back on top off a set-piece. A free-kick from a good distance out floated into the box, glancing off the head of Rondon. The Venezuelan nearly started celebrating, but the ball clanged the far post and came back out, and his off-balance follow up skied over.

[ MORE: Final Premier League standings ]

The home side had yet another chance on the hour mark. A right-sided cross from Craig Dawson fizzed across the face of goal, just out of reach of Rondon who got a slight touch with his head, but not enough to put it on net. The touch from Rondon also put off Craig Gardner unmarked at the far post, who may have had a shot to touch home had it not glanced off the first man.

The Baggies continued to push for a winner, with a 67th minute corner coming close, but as Dawson rose to meet it, he collided with Bogdan and was unable to make contact.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

A draw means Liverpool finishes the year in eighth on 60 points, two back of West Ham in 7th and three behind Southampton and Manchester United. A one-goal win would have put them level with West Ham and potentially in need of a playoff, while a two-goal or more win would have given them 7th place. 7th position only becomes a Europa League position should Manchester United win the FA Cup.

West Brom, meanwhile, jumps Crystal Palace to finish in 14th on 43 points.