The Blog FC are previewing every English Premier League side ahead of the 2015-16 season. Who’s arrived? Who’s departed? What do they need this coming season? Who will be the key man? All of that, and more, is answered below, as Adam Dow previews West Brom’s season ahead.
West Bromwich Albion
Manager: Tony Pulis
Captain: Darren Fletcher
Ins: James McClean (Wigan), James Chester (Hull City), Rickie Lambert (Liverpool).
Outs: Graham Dorrans (Norwich City), Alex Jones (Birmingham City), Kemar Roofe (Oxford City), Youssouf Mulumbu (Norwich City), Chris Baird (Derby County), Jason Davidson (released), Alex Palmer (Kidderminster, loan), Wesley Atkinson (Notts County), Donervon Daniels (Wigan), Bradley Garmston (Gillingham).
Last Season: 13th
2014-15 was… After a disastrous 2013-14, which saw Steve Clarke sacked and Pepe Mel barely scraping together enough points to prevent relegation, 2014-15 has to be seen as an eventual success for the Baggies. West Brom struggled until the appointment at the end of 2014 of Tony Pulis, winning just 4 of 19 EPL games under Alan Irvine.
Pulis solidified West Brom, losing just 1 of his first 8 games at the helm, as the form of young England international Saido Berahino proved key in the Baggies climb up the ladder. They also managed a run to the 6th round of the FA Cup, where they were defeated by local rivals and eventual finalists, Aston Villa.
They had a strong finish to the season to steer clear of the relegation zone, recording victories over Liverpool and Chelsea (though the Blues had already won the league by that stage). The acquisition of Manchester United’s Darren Fletcher midway through the season proved crucial, as West Brom went through February undefeated as the Scotsman was named captain and instantly shored up the midfield.
2015-16 will be… It’s somewhat surprising that Pulis hasn’t splashed more money at the Hawthorns – he’s done that at almost every club he’s been at, particularly at Stoke, and this is WBA’s sixth successive Premier League season, so the money is probably there. James McClean is temperamental but is an Irish international and could be a hit. It’ll also be interesting to see the return of regular game time for Rickie Lambert – can he rediscover his form at Southampton that earned him a move to boyhood club Liverpool?
Pulis has a reputation of being pragmatic and establishing clubs in the Premier League, and you’d expect more of the same here. West Brom would probably take anything that matches their points tally of 44 last season or above, and they’ve got a better side than most give them credit for.
They play Manchester City first up and Chelsea two weeks later, but won’t face any of the top sides again until Arsenal in mid-November, so they’ll need to rack the points up earlier than they did last season.
Key Player: Dare I say it, Saido Berahino. There’s rumours he’s off to either City or Tottenham, with West Brom conducting a medical on Zenit’s Venezuelan striker, Salomon Rondon, who notched 20 goals in 37 league games as the Russian club powered to the league title. If Rondon signs and Berahino goes, then he’s the key man, but I think the English striker will be around for one more season at the Hawthorns. He scored 20 goals in all competitions last season and WBA really relied on him, particularly in the Premier League, where he scored 14 of their 38.
Another big season could earn Berahino a well deserved move to a bigger side, so if he stays, I expect him to have a real point to prove and grab another hatful.
What, or whom, do WBA need? Someone to take the load off Berahino. The obvious answer there is Rickie Lambert, but he scored just two goals in the Premier League last season and one in the Europa League, so there are valid question marks over whether he can find the form that saw him gain England selection at Southampton. West Brom actually have a pretty strong defence led by Joleon Lescott, so if they can turn it on at the other end, they could push even higher than mid-table.
Mind you, I can count on one hand the amount of times Pulis’ sides have turned it on at the other end, so don’t hold your breath.
The Blog FC predicted finish: 12th