West Brom's supporters will have enjoyed their summer despite a relatively poor end of season. An eighth-place finish was as good as any could have expected, and it will be interesting to see how Steve Clarke aims to avoid his own second season syndrome. The principal concern will be the loss of Romelu Lukaku after his exceptional form on loan from Chelsea and, without a sizeable transfer budget, a repeat of last season could be tough.
Steve Clarke took his first managerial job after nine years as an assistant, and the Scotsman's training at Chelsea, West Ham and Liverpool appears to have paid significant dividends, culminating in his Premier League Manager of the Month award in November and the Baggies' highest finish since 1981. Clarke favoured a counter-attacking style last season built on a solid midfield base, but with a reduced attacking threat this may be the time to earn his stripes.
Ins and Outs
- Diego Lugano - Free
- Nicolas Anelka - Free
- Goran Popov - Loan
- Matej Vydra - Loan
- Jerome Thomas - Released
- Gonzalo Jara - Released
West Brom's counter-attacking success last season was only possible through a solid midfield base, in which Yacob and Youssuf Mulumbu performed admirably. Argentinean Yacob will again need to be at his best.
Whilst by no means a similar type of player, free transfer Anelka appears to be the direct replacement for Lukaku. It would be a huge surprise if the Frenchman got close to the Belgian striker's 17 league goals.
Northern Irishman Brunt has been one of the most under-rated Premier League performers in recent years, missing just three games last season and scoring five times. No Wes Brom player assisted more goals.
Strengths & Weaknesses
The evident weakness in the West Brom side this season is goals. The club scored 53 league goals during the last campaign, but 23 of those have already left the club (and 28 if Odemwingie leaves). Much falls at the feet of Anelka, but this is a 34-year-old striker who has scored four goals since February 2011, and therefore cannot be relied upon as a consistent source. However, this is a Baggies side that will retain a significant feel-good factor from their achievements of last season, and if players maintain their level they should be safe from serious relegation trouble.
The only addition to the signing of veteran Anelka is another experienced head in the form of central defender Diego Lugano. The Uruguayan was on loan from Paris St Germain at Malaga last season, but has just 19 league starts in two seasons. Such meagre additions make the releasing of Jerome Thomas, Marc-Antoine Fortune and Gonzalo Jara seem like something of a gamble. But Zoltan Gera has been re-signed.
"In the first half of the season I thought it was the easiest job in the world. I couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. In the second half of the season I had a rude awakening with different problems and different things to consider. I think next year I will be a better head coach."
"It's been important to keep the majority of players who have been here over the last few years and have contributed and know the league well. There are a lot of good lads here. It's been a good group since I've been here."
Facts and Figures
More headed goals at The Hawthorns than any other 2012/13 PL ground
The Baggies received a league-high seven yellow cards for time wasting in 2012-13.
West Brom achieved their best top-flight points total (49) since 1984/85 (55)
West Brom only made one last man saving tackle all season, the lowest in the top-flight
Amount of goals in 2012/13 scored in the first 15 minutes of games
I think it will be difficult for West Brom to reach the heights of last year. At times they were up in the top six and Steve Clarke did a great job, even though a lot of questions were asked of him when he replaced Roy Hodgson. They've lost Romelu Lukaku and got Nicolas Anelka, who has obviously been a top striker in the past and he will add something to them. They will find it difficult to replicate last season and it remains to be seen if they'll get dragged further down or keep their heads above water in mid-table.