Season Preview – #17 West Brom

West Brom:

Without being disrespectful, the Baggies are clearly the classic yo-yo team with more ups and downs than Katie Price’s relationships – not quite good enough for the Premier League, yet too good for the Championship – sadly, a middle-ground has yet to be constructed. Meaning, West Brom will be taking their place in the Premier League for the fifth time since 2002 after being promoted to the top-flight, again, after a one season absence under former Chelsea player – Roberto Di Matteo who was somewhat of a revelation in his first season as manager.

Currently, Di Matteo’s managerial record of West Brom stands at – P53 W30 D14 and L9 while the defeats were minimal for the Baggies last season, the top-flight will be a test of Di Matteo’s ability as a manager. An unbeaten run from March 9th till the end of the season on May 2nd saw promotion confirmed during that period on April 10th after a 3-2 win over Doncaster meant that they finished 2nd in the automatic promotion position in Championship as runners-up to Newcastle.

The Baggies are tactically a changed side under Di Matteo as they try to forget the memories of the Tony Mowbray era which saw the finish bottom of the Premier League two years ago. However, the do retain many of the personnel that oversaw that relegation – Chris Brunt, Graham Dorrans, Luke Moore, Scott Carson will all harbour those unpleasant memories and will be hoping to put them behind them as they go into this season.

Having released Robert Koren and selling midfielder Jonathan Greening to Fulham for £4million, it has allowed the Baggies some leeway in terms of buying new players. Gabriel Tamas and Pablo Ibanez have signed from Auxerre and Atletico Madrid respectively to boost the current defence. Former Blackburn midfielder, Steven Reid who enjoyed a spell on loan with the club last season has signed permanently on a free-transfer. Also, more Premier League experience, in the form of former Hull goalkeeper Boaz Myhill has been signed at a cost of £1.5million.

You could argue that they have a better squad than fellow promoted team Blackpool, not that that is hard – also, they certainly possess a more cohesive unit than say, West Ham. Last season, they scored 100-plus goals, obviously that is going to be more of a struggle this season. Joint top scorers Chris Brunt and Graham Dorrans who between them managed 13 goals apiece will be expected to hit close to that again. They’ll certainly have their work cut out when they come up against last year’s champions Chelsea on the opening day of the season.

Finally, then, we come on to the Baggies overall prospects for the season ahead. The very fact that West Brom have been so inconsistent over the years clouds people’s judgement as to how they will fare this season in the Premier League. Many of us would like to see them retain their place in the top-flight, but realistically, it probably won’t happen. If they do it will be at the expense of another seasoned Premier League side.

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