Team Preview: WBA

General Overview 

  • Expected formation: 4-2-3-1
  • Expected line-up: Foster; Dawson, McAuley (Hegazi), Evans, Nyom; Livermore, Yacob; Phillips, Chadli, JayRod; Rondon
  • Penalties: Chadli, Morrison, Brunt
  • Direct free-kicks: Brunt, Chadli
  • Indirect free-kicks: Brunt, Phillips, Morrison
  • Corners: Phillips, Brunt, Chadli, Morrison
  • Opening fixtures: BOU (H), Bur (A), STK (H), Bha (A), WHM (H), Ars (A), WAT (H), Lei (A), Sou (A), MCI (H)

Last season many were surprised by how West Brom performed as they finished fairly comfortably in 10th. They were known particularly for being prolific from set pieces – they scored more goals from corners than any other team across Europe’s top 5 leagues last season.

They’ve only brought in two summer signings so far; Hegazi and Jay Rodriguez (JayRod). They will certainly be looking to bring in some more new faces and in particular a possible replacement for last year’s captain Darren Fletcher, who left on a free transfer to Stoke.

It’s fair to say the pre-season results could’ve been better for West Brom; picking up just two wins from eight, drawing two and losing the remaining games. Both wins coming against lower league opposition; Burton Albion and Walsall.

Despite only picking up 6 clean sheets last season and looking leaky at the back in pre-season, I believe West Brom will start off strongly – Pulis’ teams are well known for being well organised and his squad will be ready come GW1.

Let’s take a look at some of the players who might interest us.

Jay Rodriguez (£6.0m)

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Albion’s main sources of goals over pre-season have come from new-boy JayRod – scoring two goals following his £15 million move from Southampton. The clubs record-signing, got off to a fantastic start against Leicester City, scoring his first West Brom goal – and what a screamer it was!

He followed that up with a late winner against Burton Albion a few days later. He’s played mainly up front with Rondon during pre-season, but can operate down either wing and looks likely to play on the left hand side of a 4-2-3-1.

He’s well known to us FPL managers from his time with Southampton, especially in the 2013-14 season when he scored an impressive 15 goals and picked up 3 assists. Not only WBA fans, but us FPL managers will be hoping he can re-create this kind of form coming into the new season and with him being reasonably priced at just £6.0m, he can act as an enabler for the big-hitters.

Nacer Chadli (£6.0m)

Pulis will be looking for this man to step-up this season. He didn’t have a great season last year, but he will be determined to prove himself this time round.

The former Spurs man is a classy player when he wants to be, but he has a tendency to switch off during games – he was the first man to be taken off when the team wasn’t performing last season.

His best season came in 2014/15 whilst at Spurs when he scored 11 goals, provided 6 assists and ended the season on 160 points.

He’s a proven player at this level and could be the difference in tight matches, not to mention the fact he’s the first-choice penalty taker. Chadli will be looking to improve his tally of 5 goals and 6 assists from last year.

Matty Phillips (£6.0m)

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This man proved to be a very shrewd signing following his £10 million move from QPR last summer.

Through the taking of corners and his fantastic wing-play, he managed to bag 9 assists as well as 4 goals in his debut season for West Brom – he turned out to be a bit of surprise package. He joins his team-mates Chadli and JayRod at £6.0m and could find his way into many teams, with his best assets being his speed and crossing ability, which was demonstrated last term.

He’s one of the first names on the team sheet when fit and is a crowd favourite. His goal involvement halted slightly in 2016/17 when he suffered an injury and he struggled to get going again upon his return – this served to prove his importance to the team, as West Brom struggled to score when he was unavailable to play.

He takes a fantastic corner and he’s got plenty to aim for – one of the main beneficiaries being McAuley who scored 6 goals last term. I fancy him to back up his fantastic start with Albion with another fine season this time round, barring any injuries of course.

West Brom defence – is it just a myth?

As previously mentioned Albion only kept 6 clean sheets last season – only beaten by the relegated Hull City – and they have conceded 13 goals in pre-season, which is not what you want to see, especially if you plan to invest in their defensive line.

However, there is a variety of enticing options that West Brom have to offer in this category, but I wouldn’t be investing in them based solely on their clean sheet potential.

The value is in their goal-scoring ability, down to Tony Pulis’ obsession with set-pieces; Gareth McAuley and Craig Dawson (both 5.0m) being the best options available, scoring 6 and 4 goals respectively in 2016/17. Both provide great attacking threat and should be considered for our FPL squads.

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A cheaper alternative at the back is the new signing Hegazi who is priced at just £4.5m and has played most of pre-season. The Egyptian centre-back will more than likely start the season with McAuley out injured and provides a cheap route into the West Brom defence, with the rest being priced at £5.0m. If he starts off well then he could keep his place beyond the return of last season’s hero McAuley.

Finally, Ben Foster (4.5m) is currently the third highest owned goalkeeper coming into the new season, most likely due to the good opening fixtures and him being the safest and cheapest route into the Albion back-line.

Conclusion

Pulis is known for having a defensively organised team and I believe that last season was just a blip, in terms of conceding goals. They have a fantastic set of opening fixtures and I’m sure they will take advantage of it.

The manager will rarely change his starting XI, barring any injuries, so when picking a player from their team, you are almost guaranteeing a starter every week – Dawson and McAuley racked up 3000+ minutes over the previous campaign.

Based on this, I believe we should be investing in at least one WBA defender, the best option in the back-line being Dawson – his attacking prowess speaks for itself and given Tony Pulis’ love of set-pieces, I can’t see it changing much this season plus, Dawson has the chance of a few assists, or even goals, from open play based on his position at full back.

Hegazi is another player worth considering – he’s looked solid in pre-season in the absence of the injured McAuley and could be a good option for the first few games. Keep an eye on the returning McAuley here, as it would probably be expected that McAuley will fill straight back in at CB when fit again.

The introduction of JayRod will certainly add more firepower to the WBA attack and he’s looked good in pre-season. I would certainly suggest considering him. The only issue with JayRod, is his unfortunate luck with injuries, but if he can steer clear of this and keep himself fit, he will get points and provide good value.

Elsewhere, Phillips and Chadli both look like good value too, although Phillips would be the preferable choice of these two for now, based on the fact that Chadli was taken off a lot last season with half an hour to go and had an apparent bust-up with Pulis recently.

I would avoid the likes of Rondon and Brunt for now. The latter has been re-classified as a midfielder and despite his ability, is far from being nailed and don’t get me started on Rondon! His ability to hold the ball up will benefit his team and JayRod in particular, but in FPL terms he’s useless.

keep-calm-and-thanks-for-reading-7

 

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