West Bromwich Albion Preview

Manager: Tony Pulis
Stadium: The Hawthorns
Captain: Darren Fletcher
Top Scorer: Saido Berahino (20)

West Bromwich Albion have for a long time now not achieved much but the club now have a chance to go for Europe with a good manager and some excellent individuals this team have the quality ti make the top 8 it remains to be seen if they can execute that.

West Bromwich Albion had a horrible start to the season stuttering and unable to really make any sort of mark bar a 4-0 win over newcomers Burnley at home. They looked like a team void of direction, void of ideas with only striker Berahino showing any real signs of life as he scorched the turf with his pace and whipped balls past numerous flailing keepers as if creating a piece of art. With no real spark or creative intuition behind him the chances were few and far between. The club have a really solid defensive unit when the defenders are playing at their best. Lescott and Dawson are past their best yet still accomplished defenders but games like the 3-2 loss to QPR and the 3-1 loss to Manchester City proved that this team was not firing and that meant that the Baggies could only notch 4 wins before the new year which led to the inevitable sacking of Alan Irvine on the 29th December after a 2-0 loss to Stoke the day before which left them in 16th place. Pulls was appointed his successor as early as 1st January.

Tony Pulis was happy to be appointed manager after Irvine failed to get results.

Tony Pulis was happy to be appointed manager after Irvine failed to get results.

The second half of the season was much improved as they would only lose 6 games before the end of the season some of these were tough games as well. Such as Manchester City and Tottenham. Saido Berhaino’s rate slowed but the team added to his haul with success and the team looked alive again. They recored huge wins over Chelsea 3-0 in what was 1 of the most incredible displays I have seen Berahino the chief architect as well as Fabregas having been sent off. They also beat Manchester United 1-0 in a game which always looked like it was going the underdogs way. This run of games and goals saw them climb as high as 13th which is where the club would finish. Respectable considering they were being touted to go down pre-Christmas.

West Bromwich Albion are currently under construction and will be for the nest 3 or 4 months as Pulis builds his squad and tries to identify his midfield anchor whether it be the Scotch captain Fletcher or someone different like vice-captain Brunt or new recruit McLean. This seemed a key part of his plan at Stoke which saw them flying high under Pulis. His long ball game was also a large part of his tenure at the Brittannia Stadium. Berahino will also be key as long as he can keep hold of the prolific frontman.

The key player for the Baggies last season has to be Berahino, he was majestic for West Brom, always could be relied upon to change a game or turn the tide a game changer. He will always be a threat for the Birmingham based club. His raw pace make him a handful enough add to that his venomous right boot and you have a striker that even the best clubs would be jealous of and clubs have been chasing his signature but as yet the hefty price tag has seen potential suitors look elsewhere for affordable alternatives. I have no doubt if he can continue his form the clubs will come knocking again every team could do with a prolific finisher.

Saido Berahino celebrates 1 of his 20 goals last season.

Saido Berahino celebrates 1 of his 20 goals last season.

Transfer business has been very low profile at the Hawthorns despite some interesting captures. Lambert arrives fresh from his ill fated time at Liverpool, his goal scoring nous could come in handy even if it just is from the bench. Lambert also suits Pulis’ long ball style that served his past club Stoke so well. James Chester is a huge signing for Pulis, he could sure up a weakness at the back and if he can will certainly be worth the rather hefty price tag Hull commanded for their defender. Chester is a good buy though and will be an asset for West Bromwich Albion. Rondón is also a huge signing, they paid a premium for the forward the south American forward could be a hugely important signature and could well add some thrust to the strike force already in place at the Hawthorns as they look for a top half finish.

Rickie Lambert celebrates scoring for England.

Rickie Lambert celebrates scoring for England.

Some long time players leave the club. Graham Dorrans departs for the new boys Norwich, he was an exciting player and a servant to the club he may well be missed by the club. Mulumbu is also off to pastures new, he had been a rock at times for the Premier League side and many will be sad to see him leave. Baird another player who has been at the club for a relatively long time leaves as Pulis has a clear out trying to build his vision.

IN: Rickie Lambert (Liverpool, £3 million)
James Chester (Hull City, £8 milllion)
James McLean (Wigan Athletic, £1.5 million)
José Salomón Rondón (Zenit, £12 million)

OUT: Graham Dorrans (Norwich City, £3 million)
Youssuf Mulumbu (Norwich City, Free)
Chris Baird (Derby County, Free)
Wes Atkinson (Notts County, Free)
Bradley Garmston (Gillingham, Free)
Donervon Daniels (Wigan Athletic, Undisclosed)
Georgios Samaras (Free Agents, Free)

West Brom look in good health and may well surprise a few this season however the whole field is getting stronger, there still a way off the top half.

My West Bromwich Albion XI (4-3-2-1): 1 B.Foster; 25 C.Dawson 6 J.Lescott 4 J.Chester 3 J.Olsson; 19 C,McManaman 24 D.Fletcher (C) 11 C.Brunt; 29 S.Sességnon 33 S.Rondón; 18 S.Berahino

Bench: 13 B.Myhill 20 L.O’Neill 23 G,McAuley 31 S.Gnabry 14 J.McLean 10 V.Anichebe 17 R.Lambert

Last Season: 13th
Prediction: 15th

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Norwich City Preview

Manager: Alex Neil
Stadium: Carrow Road
Captain: Russell Martin
Top Scorer: Cameron Jerome (21)

Norwich the newly promoted team that have the most recent Premier League experience, they have a wealth of talent in their squad which may make them a difficult team to beat over the course of the season.

Norwich had a rather strong start to the season in August and September only losing 2 games and recording a win over Watford and a draw with Bournemouth who were both outstanding over the season and at the end were automatically promoted back into the first tier of English football. Norwich racked up a healthy number of points and looked primed to yo-yo back into the Premier League. However it was not to be as their autumn run was a horror show for the club as they could only win 1 game throughout October and November. This saw them slip to 11th in the Championship table having been at the top at the start of October.

Cameron Jerome netted 21 goals last season in all competitions.

Cameron Jerome netted 21 goals last season in all competitions.

The team improved in December recording giant wins over Huddersfield (5-0) and Millwall (6-1). Neil Adams however would depart from the club in early January and Alex Neil joined, Norwich would only lose 3 further games that season. A run of 5 wins over the course of February and March would see some of their best football as they netted 16 goals and only conceded 3, the complete team, their undoubted performance of the season coming at Watford where they smashed their promoted counterparts 3-0 away from home. An outstanding performance. This purple patch also included the 4-0 obliteration of Millwall at Carrow Road, Norwich endured a very strong spell.

Through March and April their assault on the top of the table grew stronger with a run of 8 unbeaten games which saw them rise from 5th to 2nd which was a statement of intent from the Norfolk club. They played some absolute crackers over the latter part of last season including their final day 4-2 win over Fulham lifting themselves into pole position for the play-offs which saw Norwich fighting past both Ipswich and Middlesborough to complete the bounce back into England’s top flight. Norwich’s final push for promotion was wonderful to watch as a neutral and if they can produce performances like that in the Premier League will be hard to stop the club surviving the dreaded drop.

Nathan Redmond a great player, full of enthusiasm a constant threat both in built attacks as well as on the counter due to his pace. The England under-21 winger has been a mainstay in the Norwich squad for much of the last 2 seasons adding that bit of flair to a team that at times have been lacking. He is 1 of those players that can light a fire inside the Canaries and has steered them to promotion from his spot. The undeniable brilliance of the youngster has been noted by England boss Roy Hodgson, it must only be a matter of time before the pace laden winger earns a call-up to the senior national side.

Nathan Redmond celebrates one of his goals.

Nathan Redmond celebrates one of his goals.

The newly promoted club have only recruited 4 players over the off season. The acquisition of Hull striker Brady is a huge coup, he is a proven midfielder2 at the highest level after his seasons at Hull including loan spells whilst he was at Manchester United where he failed to make an appearance. The 23 year old Republic of Ireland international has been a wonderful player over the past years. They have also brought in the West Bromwich Albion duo of Dorrans and Mulumbu, Dorrans is a super creating player up the middle. Mulumbu adds another top class player to the ranks, both offer not just their quality on the field but also Premier League experience off it for Norwich City.

Robbie Brady celebrates a goal for former club Hull.

Robbie Brady celebrates a goal for former club Hull.

Norwich have offloaded much of the deadwood with very few high profile names leaving bar possibly Becchio the former Leeds man but he hasn’t been at his best for some time.

IN: Robbie Brady (Hull City, £7 million)
Graham Dorrans (West Bromwich Albion, £3 million)
Youssouf Mulumbu (West Bromwich Albion, Free)
Jake Kean (Blackburn Rovers, Free)

OUT: Cameron McGeehan (Luton Town, Undisclosed)
Lucciano Becchio (Belgrano, Free)
Mark Bunn (Aston Villa, Free)
Ignasi Miquel (Free Agents, Free)
Sam Kelly (Free Agents, Free)
Carlos Cuéllar (Free Agents, Free)
Kyle Callen-Fadden (Free Agents, Free)

Norwich will be a difficult team over the course of the season will that be enough to stay up? Only time can answer this question, I think that the quality of the Premier League may be too much for Norwich.

My Norwich City XI (4-2-2-2): 1 B.Johnson; 2 S.Whittaker 5 R.Martin (C) 6 M.Turner 23 M.Olsson; 14 W.Hoolahan 4 B.Johnson; NA R.Brady 22 N.Redmond; 20 R.van Wolfswinkel 10 C.Jerome

Bench: NA J.Kean 30 S.Bassong 24 R.Bennett 8 J.Howson 41 G.Dorrans 9 K.Lafferty 11 G.Hooper

Last Season: Championship Play-Off Winner
Prediction: 18th (Relegated)