Football's fine line between love, hate and sarcasm

Having narrowly escaped relegation last season and worked their way through two managers, Steve Clarke and Pepe Mel, this campaign can only go better for the West Midlands side, surely? Maybe not.
Now under the tenure of Alan Irvine, whose job, until he took over at the Baggies in June, was as Everton's youth coach, things don't appear to be looking too bright. The Glasgow-born former QPR, Blackburn and Crystal Palace winger has only brief managerial experiences at Preston and Sheffield Wednesday to call on, and his squad at West Brom has a lot of room for improvement.

Last season's 36-point haul and subsequent 16th-place finish that I eluded to earlier came about as a result of winning just seven games all term, a statistic matched only by Cardiff, who finished bottom. That said, the other two relegated teams, Norwich and Fulham, won just eight and nine games respectively.
It seems obvious, but the reason for this was due to conceding far too many goals, 59 in fact, and only five teams conceded more. This was, however, offset somewhat by the number of goals scored by the likes of Stephane Sessegnon, who contributed five to a season total of 43. This stat, by contrast, was the joint 11th-highest in the league.

Having hung on to the two aforementioned players, West Brom must concentrate on finding the net more regularly if they are to stand a chance of reaching 40 points and establishing Prem safety earlier in the campaign.

TRANSFER ACTIVITY
By Irvine's own admission, "it's [been] extremely difficult" for West Brom to make signings this season, and that is reflected in their movement this window.
However, with all that said and done, the Baggies have splashed out £10million to bring in Brown Ideye from Dynamo Kiev, a striker who has netted 33 goals in 74 games for his Ukrainian former employers. Fans will be hoping the 25-year-old Nigerian international can replicate this form in a blue-and-white shirt and help the club stave off relegation of press for a mid-table place.
On top of that big-money signing, the club have made some shrewd moves, with Craig Gardner and Joleon Lescott, both players with bucketloads of top-flight experience, on free transfers from Sunderland and Manchester City respectively. It is signings like this that Irvine will look at to provide a sturdy backline and to stem the flow of goals that hurt them so much last season.

Liverpool's promising young defender Andre Wisdom has also been brought in on a season-long loan. This move has left many fans, both West Brom and Liverpool, excited by the prospect of seeing such a highly-rated star in action week-in, week-out.
Going the opposite way are the likes of Scott Allan, Liam Ridgewell and Steven Reid, who look to have paid the price for a string of less-than-inspiring performances last term.

PLAYERS TO WATCH
I'm well aware that I have just mentioned his name, but Andre Wisdom could prove to be an inspired temporary signing for a team that was often found lacking in invention during 2013-14. The 21-year-old right-back has made a number of appearances for Liverpool, as well as many impressive displays whilst on loan at Derby last season, and is quickly making a name for himself as a marauding, attack-minded full-back.
Having scored nine goals in all competitions last time out, Saido Berahino, who is also full of youthful vigour at 21, will be looking to improve on that tally this season and start repaying the faith shown in him since he was brought to the West Midlands at under-12 level.

AMBITION
Survival. I can't put it any more clearly than that, and it is without doubt what West Brom, their fans and coaching staff will be focusing on. They will, however, be looking to do it much more comfortably than they did last campaign.

PREDICTION: 15TH

 

       

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