West Brom

This is our fix up look sharp series, which will look to profile a selection of Premier League teams for their FPL potential. We’ll give some key info on the players, talk about their first five fixtures and pick out five key individuals from that side, then offer a verdict on them at the end.

After the fixtures were announced on 14th June I, instead of actually working as I was meant to be on the business trip I was attending, took to Twitter to post up some of the things that initially came to mind from the “fresh off the press” fixture sheets.

My first tweet was as follows:

So, accordingly, this short article is about WBA and wondering if I really was right at first glance.

The players

WBA have a reputation for a goalscoring and solid defence and… erm… not much else. Tony Pulis wearing a baseball cap?

I’ve done a little research into them – here’s the key points:

  • The “goalscoring” part is true: as I referenced in my tweet, Gareth McAuley exemplified WBA’s massive threat from set pieces, with 6 goals last year (including the infamous phantom goal), equal to Gary Cahill and Marcos Alonso at Chelsea. According to Sports Mole’s list, that put him as 2nd to Salomon Rondon (on 8) for top scorer for WBA this year (this tip’s for free – never buy Salomon Rondon). Craig Dawson in with 4 goals also made their top 5.
  • Alongside that, it’s noting that last year Dawson was 3rd in the list with 4 goals yet again. WhoScored’s stats say he had 0.6 shots a game last season – 0.2 more than team mate McAuley and equal to Gary Cahill and other offensive players such as Charlie Daniels. This marks Dawson out as a consistent threat, with a 5.0m price likely but a £4.5m price the dream (even if he is rubbish on FIFA).
  • The “solid” part is probably also true: further inspection shows that WBA kept 6 clean sheets last year; a fall from 11 clean sheets, when this reputation was forged, the year before, but still a good figure in the most high scoring Premier League for many a year.
  • With that in mind Ben Foster must also enter our thoughts, as we optimistically wait for last season’s 4.5 price tag to be repeated. With Myhill likely to revert to a 4.0 keeper after not playing last season – he gained the extra 0.5 through covering for Foster after serious injury in 15/16 – they would be the ideal spot for my favoured 4.5/4.0 goalkeeper lineup, wherein the 4.0 is the 4.5’s backup. Even a 5.0/4.0 might be permissible, but with Foster finishing the campaign at only 4.7 I’m hopeful it’ll be in my favour.
  • There is also a point to be made about the low rotation factor at WBA – as Talksport note, there were only 49 changes to their starting XI all year, the lowest in the Premier League.
  • WBA don’t tend to play much after they are mathematically safe: after surprisingly overturning Arsenal 3-1 at home on 11th March, they failed to score for the next 5 games, or win at all until the end of the season (9 whole games without a win!)

The first five fixtures

A strong first 5 fixtures for West Brom, which read:

BOU / bur / STK / bha / WHU (n.b. upper case is home, lower case is away)

Fantasy Football Scout’s ticker rates them like this (and our ticker is in near total agreement);

But just how good are they?

Well, let’s see, by using the Premier League’s own “head to head” meter to gauge WBA’s record against those each of these teams and see if that is truly the case. Any semi-predictions come with big caveats, as we have the transfer window and pre-season to shake things up, but here’s 2 or 3 lines on each with some general observations.

Bournemouth (H): 4 games played in PL, 1w WBA, 1d, 2w Bournemouth.

Last season: WBA 2-1 bou / BOU 1-0 wba.

Verdict: probably closer than it looks on paper. With spring chicken Jermain Defoe signing for the Cherries, plus the man of the season for Bournemouth last year Joshua King likely starting behind him, I’d wonder if that fixture is as good as we’re making out.

Burnley (a): 4 games played in PL, 2w for WBA, 2d

Last season: BUR 2-2 wba / WBA 4-0 bur

Verdict: I kind of wonder if WBA aren’t slightly favoured here, given the hiding they gave Burnley in GW12, which is when Matty Phillips’ goal and assist saw him catch alight. There will be goals in this game – it could just be hoping that WBA’s defence stand firm if you own a player from it.

Stoke (H): 16 games played in PL: 5w WBA, 4d, 7w Stoke

Last season: WBA 1-0 stk / STK 1-1 wba

The increasingly acrimonious ‘Pulis derby’ reached fever pitch this year, with the ex-Stoke boss accused of calling his former captain a “loser” over the phone. Quite. Expect some loveless exchanges in this one, with a low scoring game. At home, I actually think this is more favourable to WBA than the Bournemouth game is.

Brighton (a): never played in PL

Last season: n/a

A lot will depend on whether Brighton have hit the ground running or not, led forward no doubt by our recent ‘prospecting the prospects’ subject, Anthony Knockaert. West Brom did not manage a victory away at a newly promoted side last year, which could mark this one as another potential stalemate.

West Ham (H):   18 games played in PL: 4w WBA, 8d, 6w WHU

Last season: WHU 2-2 wba / WBA 4-2 whu

Quite a high scoring game that typically goes to a draw or in West Ham’s favour. Maybe the 4-2 result of last year might be drawn upon by WBA to will them on in this game; I’d definitely favour them, as much as I have a soft spot for Michail Antonio.

The key players

The top targets

Ben Foster: the ex-United keeper could be a ‘fire and forget’ for the season if 4.5.

Craig Dawson: a consistent goal threat and similar shots on target to top defender goalscorer Cahill.

Chris Brunt: the man with the archetypal “wand of a left foot” got me double figures more than once last season – a lot will depend on his valuation and whether he is categorised as a midfielder or defender, though. With the signing of Jay Rodriguez, though (see below), we may see him now deployed at left back more often than not.

The signing

As is always the way, the day after we published this article is was announced – as we anticipated in our 5 asides on 22nd June – that WBA had signed Jay “JRod” Rodriguez  from Southampton for a fee of £12m.

This is an interesting one, as there are two factors at play here:

  1. Will he be playing as a winger, or as a support striker to replace Saido Berahino? If he’s a support striker in the middle, 15 goals and 3 assists (152 points) in his 2013/14 breakout season (before doing his ACL which has disrupted his more recent season) might make him an exciting prospect, which brings us on to…
  2. Will he be classified as a midfielder or a forward? With limited involvement last term, it’s not unfeasible that FPL towers will leave him at midfield status, with a starting price of 6.0m (he started last season at 6.5m but ended it at 5.9m) likely. This could make him a really nice “out of position” prospect that is much coveted on FPL (think Michu, long time managers!)

Let’s see how this shakes out, but that could be a great signing, with JRod presumably wishing to reinvigorate his career; much depends on on how Pulis sets up his side.

The punt

Will he reward my Chadder?

Nacer Chadli: flickered in patches last season, if he gets a pre-season in and gets on form early, could he reach his past levels? A direct player who is a good FPL asset when in the groove, it’s often forgotten that he scored 11 goals and provided 8 assists in 2014/15 for Spurs, getting a more than decent overall score of 160. That would’ve outscored Mane this term and just behind the likes of Vardy and Pedro. Though we did consider Matty Phillips here, Chadli fits the bill more as an under-the-radar punt due to the Scotsman’s high ownership at times during the last season. Handed a 6.5m valuation last term, this will surely decrease given the fact he ended the season at just 5.8m; at 6.0m he could be one to consider. Of course, a caveat here is that this could be compromised if JRod is played as a winger.

UPDATE: Rumours of an argument, despite a “resolution of differences” after, between Chadders and Pulis resulted in the Belgian being left out of WBA’s Austrian training camp. If anything, this lengthens the odds of my punt somewhat!

Update on UPDATE: Chadli started on Asia tour a fair bit. Seems fine now.

The blanker

Salomon Rondon: 7 games, no goals for me last term. Do not get him!

The verdict

WBA are the invariably solid Premier League team that never threatens Europe nor ever gets threatened with relegation. They are especially effective in the beginning of the season as they work hard to ensure safety. This makes them into the kind of team you want to load up on early.

Their first five identify them as ideal providers of players in the mid price bracket – I’m thinking your 2nd or 3rd defender, your 4th midfielder or your goalkeeper. Do not touch Rondon.

I’m thinking Dawson is probably going to come in and stay in, at least until the early wildcard or injury: McAuley will probably be 5.5 given his output last season, and he also looks as if he’s begun to be rotated or rested.

I am seriously thinking of Chadli too now – a lot will depend on his valuation and like players, but he’s as good a bet as any from day one, with some sort of pedigree to boot.

All in all, it’s fair to say WBA players will be represented in my team: it’s down to their pricing, and others in the mid price bracket, to see if I get 2 or 3. But, either way, their appeal is plain to see.