Stephane Sessegnon (sp) (att) released; Victor Anichebe (sp) (att) released; Anders Lindegaard (gk) Preston NE;
The Baggies enjoyed another solid season under Pulis last term and their goal once again will be establishing themselves in a position with a healthy lead over the bottom three as soon as possible. It must be said that West Brom have been existing in the bottom half of the table for a very long time now and things can go wrong very quickly if a series of negative results are recorded. That said just a week before the start of the season a conglomerate of Chinese billionaires bought the Baggies and now everyone wants to hear if there will be any financial injections straight away or the new owners will wait until the winter. Last season West Brom had problems keeping clean sheets on home turf but the extremely talented goalkeeper Ben Foster missed many games because of injury and with him fully fit now the defensive record should be better. That said Pulis is working with a very experienced, but ageing back line and in the long term the 36-year-old McAuley might find it tough to endure another season of starting every weekend. Still Pulis’ reputation and West Brom’s known grit and hard work should see the team being a tough nut to crack. This will be important as their main problems are in attack. The Baggies finished last season with the fewest shots on target, even Villa showed better aim, and only Salomon Rondon scored more than four goals. The Venezuelan striker is the main hope again and after being involved in 7 of his team’s last 12 goals last term he is without a doubt looking indispensable at the minute. This is even more true this season as Berahino is not expected to stay a Baggie after August, plus Sessesgnon and Anichebe were released, leaving only veteran Ricki Lambert as a feasible option in attack. West Brom’s activity on the transfer market so far has been next to nothing, the only new arrival is that of winger Matt Phillips, who will hopefully provide better crosses for the robust Rondon and Lambert. Despite the relatively small squad West Brom are likely to use their established style of play well and with Pulis a manager of vast experience no long negative runs are expected. The schedule of fixtures up until Christmas is also decent and West Brom will try and secure comfort as soon as possible. Securing more than the five home clean sheets from last season and scoring more goals are the two primary aims and if the first one looks very likely to be achieved the second one will require strengthening of the ranks with new signings that are yet to transpire.
WBA are aiming for another mid-table finish and most pundits see them securing with relative ease placement between 11th and 16th. The new owners might change this prediction once they declare their transfer budget.