14) WEST BROMWICH ALBION
Pts: 22 (6-10-4)
Preseason Prediction: 19th
Accuracy: Not real close
On paper, they are certainly a lot better than Blackpool, and proved that through last year’s Championship season. But history has taught us (and me) that the fight for survival in the rugged Premiership is just that, a fight, and I don’t know if the way West Brom is set up, they’re ready for a fight. They’ll probably have some days where they look very good (just as they did two years ago), but I’m not sure that will be enough to stay up.
However, it certainly wouldn’t shock me if they did, and I may be underestimating Mr. Di Matteo a little. An interesting team to keep an eye on.
Indeed, I had been underestimating Roberto Di Matteo, whose entertaining bunch has been one of the stories of the season. What’s striking is how he’s built this squad. Peter Odemwingie, a Nigerian in the Russian league, leads them with 6 goals. He’s been playing Wigan castoff Paul Scharner at center back. Chris Brunt and Jerome Thomas – veterans of the Championship – have been more than productive. And maybe no one shows what scouting can do more than Somen Tchoyi, who went from Norway to Red Bull Salzburg, and was playing extremely well there. He had 3 goals, and has been extremely exciting to watch, just like his team.
There is still a long way to go, and the West Brom ship has seen a few minor leaks lately, which could still be a problem if not plugged quickly.
Preseason best new signing:
Pablo Ibanez – Ibanez has been somewhat of a flop, making only 8 starts at center back, and not looking terribly good in the process, which was one of the reasons why Di Matteo first looked at Scharner there. He does have one goal, but he’s not first choice right now.
Preseason key player :
Graham Dorrans – Dorrans has also been a bit of a disappointment after tearing up the Championship last season. He’s started only 11 times and has yet to pick up a goal or an assist. I guess you can blame his relative inexperience at this level, and the fact that the Premiership is much, much faster. He has shown signs of life lately, and West Brom could use him to get a few goals in the second half of the season.
Key player now:
Odemwingie – He was impressive for Nigeria and for Lokomotiv Moscow, but few people noticed, and few thought he would have the impact he has. He’s struggled a little lately (including one of the worst penalties of the season against Manchester United), but he’s been a threat in almost every game, which is more than you can say for many other teams’ best strikers.
Inside the numbers:
6 – Number of red cards that West Brom has picked up this season, most in the league, which is somewhat strange because they have only 27 yellow cards this season. Youssuf Mulumbu has only one yellow, but two reds this season.
They’ve not been lucky to be where they are, but you still worry about their defense, which has been very shaky at times. Still, I would take their attacking talent over many others in the Premiership, and that should be enough for us to enjoy them for another season.