Season Preview - West Bromwich Albion

Quick Reminder, Real Life

The two most important words on any West Brom fan’s lips last season must surely have been: Peter Odemwingie. What a breath of fresh air in the Premier League. Odemwingie arrived at The Hawthorns and was an instant hit. The club dismissed manager Roberto Di Matteo half-way through the year in the thick of a relegation battle, and Roy Hodgson came in, steadied the shape, and guided the Baggies to a mid-table (11th) finish, but it was all Odemwingie all the time. The Nigerian scored 15 goals in 32 league games. Chris Brunt scored twice (both penalties) in the memorable 2-1 win over Liverpool as Roy Hodgson took down his old club in April, and ended the season in form as he supported Odemwingie from wide attacking and central positions. Yussuf Mulumbu was also a consistent newcomer to the Premier League and steadied the ship in midfield throughout the ups and downs while former England international GK Scott Carson (now playing in Turkey) saw a majority of the action between the sticks.

Quick Reminder, Fantasy

Peter Odemwingie was so consistent, racking up 5+ points per game in the Official PL game and giving the likes of Tevez, Bent, RVP, and Rooney a run for their money on a consistent basis as the league’s highest scoring weekly striker. Brunt, Jerome Thomas, and Mulumbu took turns chipping in with reasonable scoring from midfield positions - West Brom were solid last year in the middle of the pitch - and Somen Tchoyi even got in on the scoring fun, managing 6 league goals in just 800+ minutes of action, a superb return. James Morrison scored 4 goals from midfield - a typical return for the Scotland international who is a pacy right winger and productive in ‘real life’ but never seems to have that 5+ or 6+ goal breakthrough from a fantasy perspective to set him apart from his colleagues.

Summer Changes

  • A New Backline - Ben Foster comes in and the former Manchester United and Birmingham stud is the new #1 at the Hawthorns and brings a considerable amount of league experience with him. In addition, WBA have signed Billy Jones and Garth McAuley to address their needs across the back four.
  • Myhill and Carson out - Little competition then for Foster, even if he flounders, as both Boaz Myhill and Scott Carson have left the club. Martin Fulop (new signing) will backup Foster this season.
  • Hodgson reunited with Zoltan Gera - The Hungarian stud midfielder has left Fulham and joined West Brom’s crowded midfield. He’ll bring plenty of experience, and the ability to play wide left, wide right, or supporting a striker like Odemwingie, but with so many younger players around him playing similar positions, it’s doubtful that Gera will have a big impact this year. I anticipate a “super-sub” role.

2011-12 Outlook, Real Life

West Brom certainly haven’t splashed the cash this summer while some of there other mid-table rivals (I’m looking at you Sunderland) have. That said, they’ve added a very experienced goalkeeper in Foster and with the likes of Shorey and Olsson experienced defenders, they should be tighter at the back. Hodgson likes to remain organized, almost to the point of perhaps abandoning a bit of creativity in his tactics- but these are the type of tactics that keep clean sheets at home, and keep a club in the Premier League. I could never imagine that Odemwingie, Brunt, Thomas and Mulumbu could will West Brom into European places but I certainly do not see them battling it out in the relegation zone either. It’s looking like another 11th place finish or so is on the cards for Hodgson’s men.

Probable Starting XI

Foster, Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Shorey, Morrison, Mulumbu, Scharner, Dorrans, Brunt, Odemwingie

2011-12 Scouting Report, Yahoo Fantasy
  • Fantasy Gold - Coming into last season who’d have thought that WBA would have two strong candidates for this category in the form of then-unknown (on England's shores) Peter Odemwingie and Chris Brunt (who we suspected might be pretty good based on his Championship performance). They’re both expensive but have proven to be consistently good. Add in Ben Foster who was excellent last season with the caveat that WBA’s defense might make his life harder than he had it last season.
  • On The Rise - Every season a variety of factors create opportunities for value buying in the Yahoo! game:
    • Graham Dorrans (returning from injury) looked set up to have a great season last year but never made it past injuries and some personal issues to really settle in to the Premier League. If he can get it going and be even half the guy he was in WBA’s promotion campaign he’ll be more than worth his current price.
    • Somen Tchoyi (increased role) Tchoyi sparkled at times but could never hold down a regular sport in the WBA lineup. This season he's tipped to play off Odemwingie in an advanced role. If that does happpen, and he can fend off the likes of Gera for that role he could be a valuable fantasy signing.
    • Shane Long (new signing?) On the other hand, WBA are rumoured to be close to signing Reading's Shane Long. If that happens and Roy goes 4-4-2 then it's Long, with a (sorry) long histroy of scoring goals in the Championship, who could be good value for money.
    • Billy Jones (new signing) Jones looks to make the step up to the Premier League after four seasons with Preston. If he can hold down a place in the side ahead of Reid and Jara, he could be a nice attacking defensive option.
  • Traps - I know I mentioned Foster in the fantasy gold category above but at his current price and given Albion’s defensive frailties last season, you have to look at him as suspect regardless of his talent. A keeper can only do so much if his defenders don’t help him much. Also, it will be worth monitoring who takes set-pieces if Brunt and Dorrans play together.

2011-12 Outlook, Official PL Fantasy

Studs: Odemwingie is still a stud selection despite his price hike to 7.5M this season. He’ll be good for 10-15 league goals and that’s a superb return for a striker valued in the single digits... Defender Jonas Olsson certainly isn’t expensive at 4.5M and should hold down a first team role. He could work well as a 5th defender, especially when WBA are at home, as Hodgson has historically kept it pretty tight and well organized.

Duds: Paul Scharner is good for 3-4 goals a season but stay away from him this season. He’s valued at 5.5M, classified correctly as a midfielder (not a defender - as he was classified back in his Wigan days) and faces very stiff competition for a central midfield role. Avoid him and look elsewhere.

On the fence:Foster could be good for 5-9 clean sheets and at 5M that’s a decent return, but taking a look at some of the other goalkeepers available in a similar price range in the league (Robinson, Howard, Friedel) perhaps will keep Foster from being widely owned. Brunt, Mulumbu and Tchoyi are three good attacking players priced in the 5.5M - 6M range but perhaps not as consistent as going with the aformentioned Odemwingie. Keep an eye on Tchoyi specifically at 5.5M in case he becomes a regular starter and moves into the ‘stud’ category.

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