Wednesday, March 29, 2023

West Brom 2016/17 Season Preview: Can The Baggies Better Their Mid-Table Finishes?

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Arka Tarun Mukherjee
Arsenal fan and football expert, Arka Tarun Mukherjee actually used to play cricket at semi pro level. An ardent student of football tactics, ATM is very passionate about the tactical aspects of the game and has a dream of being a football manager in the future.

West Bromwich Albion finished 14th last season with manager Tony Pulis doing what he does best. It was, in fact, the eighth consecutive time that the manager had finished in between 11th to 14 in the Premier League with the team he managed, a remarkable feat of consistency with the squads he has worked with so far. The club had some obvious complications to do business so far in the transfer market as the club was undergoing a takeover by a Chinese consortium. Matt Phillips has been the only man in so far, with the speedy winger moving to the Hawthorns from QPR for a reported fee of £5.5m as the move for Diafra Sakho fell through when he failed his medical.

There’s still a bit of time left for the transfer market to close, Pulis would be hoping that the new ownership makes the funds available so that he can get some much needed players in with little time left. There is an urgent need for strikers at the club with Victor Anichebe and Stephan Sessegnon released and Saido Berahino’s future up in the air. Solomon Rondon was their top scorer last season with 9 goals, he needs some support up front which the 34-year old Ricky Lambert won’t be able to provide.

The eternal feature of any Tony Pulis managed club has been their compact defence and domination at set pieces. This time around, the Midlands club needs some addition to freshen up their aging backline. James Chester has had a wonderful Euro 2016 campaign but the club will need to sign a replacement for him as he is on the move to Boro.

Same philosophy?

The general trait of the team would be the usual, where the defence would be the priority. The attack would be sacrificed for the need of defensive solidity. This particular feature has been a trademark of Pulis, although very effective in securing results, it becomes increasingly frustrating for the fans. Last season, Albion had the lowest share of possession in the division and only relegated Aston Villa scored fewer goals than them. Interestingly, the current Baggies boss showed that he is also capable of orchestrating some good passing and attacking football when he managed Crystal Palace a few seasons ago if the club manages to get some decent players in, West Brom can also offer a similar kind of excitement.

Next season is going to be the most competitive yet and it is expected that the Baggies would be able to steer clear of the relegation-threatened places. The track record of their manager would ensure that while the fans would hope that the team becomes a bit more adventurous in the opposition half while keeping their usual defensive solidity. Pulis was quoted last month in the Express and Star as saying, “All over. Every position that you look at. The back players, midfield players and front players, we have to strengthen. The targets have been there, we know what we want.” The remark of the manager would fill the supporters with the hope of imminent arrivals as their club look to take on the challenge of another season in the top flight.

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