Club Fantasy Profiles: West Bromwich Albion

West_Bromwich_Albion_logo

 

West Bromwich Albion limped towards premier league survival in the 2013/2014 season, suffering through the malaise of Steve Clarke’s downfall and then the sheer mediocrity of Pepe Mel’s tenure. The club finished in 17th place and failed to build on the impressive eighth place finish of 2012/2013. This summer has brought around a complete overhaul in the squad, with eight new players added at the time of writing. It will be up to the much maligned new manager Alan Irvine to get this hastily assembled bunch playing and functioning well together. A season of consolidation appears to be on the cards for the Baggies.

 

Team Overview

Goalkeeper is the one area of the West Brom squad that can be seen as a certain strength. With Ben Foster cemented in as the first choice keeper, West Brom boast an England international who came out of the World Cup with a lot of plaudits. Foster has played well during his Albion tenure but in each of his two full seasons at the club he has suffered from injuries. This propensity to injury seems to be a real issue for Foster and it may limit his fantasy upside as no one wants to spend multiple picks on backups. Behind Foster on the Albion roster is veteran Boaz Myhill. Myhill has performed admirably in Foster’s absence over the course of the past two seasons and is certainly a capable premier league level goalkeeper who won’t ruin the fantasy chances of defenders playing in front of him.

At the time of writing, the West Brom centre back cupboard is certainly well stocked. Last seasons favoured pairing of Jonas Olsson and Gareth McCauley are both returning to the squad and will hopefully benefit from playing with fullbacks who aren’t named Liam Ridgewell, more on the left back spot later though. Olsson and McCauley can be seen as the same player really as they are fighting for the same spot and offer for roughly the same fantasy upside. West Brom run a very particular type of corner kick that involves targeting either McCauley or Olsson at the back post, this means that along with the possibility of clean sheets, they offer goal scoring upside. One of Olsson and McCauley will partner new recruit Joleon Lescott at the centre of the West Brom defence. Lescott was one of the first signings made in the Irvine regime and the player has been coached by the Scotsman during his time at Everton. The ex-England international should help solidify a formerly weak West Brom defence, whilst none of the Albion defenders appear to be every week starters, they do offer matchup-based upside as the team looks to tighten up under their new manager. Rounding out the centre back roster is the perpetually underwhelming Craig Dawson, he, however, may be on the move to Premiership newcomers, Burnley.

The fullback position at the end of the 13/14 season was in complete disarray at West Brom, with all four fullbacks on the roster out of contract. This has led to four new players joining the club in the summer. The right back spot will now be manned by one of Andre Wisdom (on loan from Liverpool) or Cristian Gamboa, one of the stars of Costa Rica’s improbable World Cup run. If Gamboa can solidify his position as a starter, he offers an intriguing upside that fantasy owners should monitor. The electric pace that Gamboa possesses is few and far between in the Premier League and he should make a large number of chances for the West Brom strikers.

As someone who’s suffered through every game of Liam Ridgewell’s West Brom career, the left back position at the club has become a particular pet peeve of mine. With the bouffanted one now moved onto Portland, the position is now manned by one of Sebastien Pocognoli or Jason Davidson. Pocognoli figures to be the starter for the seasons kick off but he will be pushed all the way by Davidson as the Australian adapts to life in England. Pocognoli is a more defensive fullback than his Australian counterpart so he has less upside than I’d like for a fantasy starter.

The West Brom midfield is a minefield of mediocrity with no real star performers who jump out to fantasy owners. The two who may offer the kind of upside that captures the imagination of owners are Stephane Sessegnon and Graham Dorrans. The club broke their transfer record last summer to capture Sessegnon from Sunderland and the Benin international showed flashes of incredible talent in his debut season. If he can become a more consistent player he is certainly a cheap option worth monitoring. Graham Dorrans experienced a career renaissance under Pepe Mel and he figures to be in the plans of Irvine in the new season. Dorrans dead ball expertise means he could finish the season with five to eight goals. Craig Gardener, Youssuf Mulumbu, Chris Brunt and James Morrison all figure to feature in the first team at various points in the season as Irvine’s plans for the midfield remain unclear. These players could only really be fielded on a matchup basis unless Mulumbu is played in the number 10 role that Irvine has experimented with in preseason, he has shown some prowess in front of goal in years past but he has been typically been a holding player.

West Brom don’t particularly have any genuine wide players to consider for fantasy owners, with the club still pressing on in their attempts to sign players. Brunt and Morrison are players who may be used by Irvine out wide, however as mentioned earlier they offer limited upside to fantasy players as their roles are not locked in. If Brunt figured to be a regular starter, he does offer the possibility of a few set piece goals. In the right matchup against teams weak at set pieces, Brunt may also grab a few assists as he is an excellent corner taker.

Up front, West Brom are also incredibly thin, with only three recognized strikers currently on the roster. The group is led by club record signing, Brown Ideye. He was signed in the summer for £10 million and figures to be the focal point of the West Brom attack. The Nigerian has an excellent track record of success at his other clubs and his ability as a passer and hold up man offers the ability to add assists to his potential goal scoring output. The other contenders for the Albion strikers spot (the Baggies will play with one striker under Irvine) are Victor Anichebe and Saido Berahino. Anichebe offers very little to fantasy owners as he is not a natural goal scorer and can’t be used out wide.

Berahino on the other hand has the potential to grow into an interesting fantasy option in the 2014 season. He impressed early on last season, scoring a winner at Old Trafford and generating some talk of an England call up, however once he signed a new contract at the Hawthorns his form tailed off and his attitude on the pitch seemed to falter. If he can get his head screwed on straight, he figures to have the opportunity to turn into an interesting matchup option for fantasy owners.

 

The Stud

Foster has the ability to be a top fantasy keeper if health is on his side.

Foster has the ability to be a top fantasy keeper if health is on his side.

Ben Foster: The England international is West Brom’s most recognizable player and is certainly their best fantasy option. Under Irvine, West Brom figure to be a more conservative team and their leaky back line has been bolstered with the additions of Lescott, Gamboa and Pocognoli. Foster not only offers the option for clean sheet points, he also figures to be an active shot stopper with the potential for bonus points. If you’re not comfortable with spending big or drafting a keeper early, Foster is great value guy to target.

 

Key New Signings

"Nigerian Nightmare": Ideye will feature prominently in the West Brom attack

“Nigerian Nightmare”: Ideye will feature prominently in the West Brom attack

Brown Ideye: A man who hopefully I will get the chance to christen as the “Nigerian Nightmare” in the coming season, Ideye will be the figurehead of West Brom’s attack. He may start the year slowly due to a visa issue delaying his arrival in the sunny West Midlands but by seasons end, he has the potential to be a 15-goal man.

Joleon Lescott: At one point in his career, Lescott was a £24 million pound defender who featured regularly for England – this wasn’t too long ago. As a free agent signing, Lescott’s experience and savvy will be a huge asset to West Brom as they look to improve on their leaky defence from last season. During his Everton tenure, Lescott was a big goal threat from set pieces so he offers additional upside that may perk fantasy players interests.

Cristian Gamboa: One of the stars of the World Cup, Gamboa offers a lot more upside than the majority of Premiership full backs. He is incredibly quick and can score goals if he gets into the right positions. In addition to this, there is talk that he may play as a winger for West Brom and players who are wrongly classified as defenders are always a huge bonus for fantasy players.

 

Underrated Player

Stephane Sessegnon: Valuing Sessegnon highly will involve a huge leap of faith, one however that may pay off greatly. If he can find some form of consistency, he is the kind of high upside talent that can change a team’s whole outlook on a season. The amount of simple chances that he missed in 2013 show that he can get into goal scoring positions, if he can convert even a third of these in the new season, he’ll be a great value for owners.

 

Young Guns

The time is now for Adil Nabi.

The time is now for Adil Nabi.

West Brom don’t have many youngsters with the potential to burst onto the first team scene but here are a few with the chance to play should the injury bug hit.

Adil Nabi: A star of England’s youth teams in years past, if Nabi is to make it as a Premier League player, this is the year he has to do it with West Brom. A cruciate ligament injury robbed him of the chance to play last season. The young striker could feature if the Baggies suffer just one injury.

Donervon Daniels: Daniels is currently out on loan to Championship side Blackpool for a month and the promising centre back may become West Brom’s fourth choice option if Craig Dawson is sold to Burnley as expected.

Liam O’Neill: The ginger wonder of the West Brom Under-21’s, O’Neill made his debut for the first team last season and the versatile young defender may well feature off the bench in 2014/2015

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>