West Brom in 2014/15 – Baggies must rise from ashes of near-disaster

Read Tottenham in 2014/15 – patience required for Pochettino magic

Read West Ham in 2014/15 – Do Hammers now have the tools to score?

2013/14 will be a season to forget quickly for West Brom fans as fortunes for the club saw a raft of different managers struggle to keep them in the division. The void Romelu Lukaku left was optimistically filled with goal-shy Victor Anichebe, on-loan Matej Vydra and the ever-controversial Nicolas Anelka. After the latter was found guilty of making an offensive gesture, the burden of hitting the net was left to rest on the former two, the emerging England U21 starlet Saido Berahino and with new attacking midfielders Stephane Sessegnon and on-loan Morgan Amalfitano. WBA were to become the draw specialists of the campaign, notching a total of 15 one-pointers, four more than any other team.

With seven, they managed the third-lowest number of wins, so it really was a miracle that they survived at all, finishing in 17th place – three points above relegated Norwich in 18th. Steve Clarke lasted until December, while former Betis coach Pepe Mel replaced caretaker manager Keith Downing in early January suggesting that regular change is nothing but an illusion of progress.

Aims for the season ahead

Find a consistent goalscorer and survive. Former Everton academy coach Alan Irvine takes the seemingly poisoned chalice of becoming the club’s fourth manager within the last 12 months. Brown Ideye has been brought in for a record £8.8m, and while only managing five league goals in his last 19 league games for Dynamo Kiev, the Nigerian hitman has scored over 30 goals in his last two seasons in all competitions.

Irvine will need to find a way to feed his new target man, especially given they will be without Amalfitano this season who created the most chances out of all the Baggies’ attackers last season (45) and contributed four goals and three assists from wide. Although Cristian Gamboa, Chris Baird and Joleon Lescott have been brought in to bolster a defence which conceded 59 goals last season, West Brom have certainly got a fight on their hands to remain in the division against some world class attacking threats.

Key summer signing so far

Joelon Lescott. The former England defender has significant experience in the top flight at both the top, and most notably the bottom with Wolves, Everton and Man City, accumulating 220 appearances. Although he has lost some mobility, Lescott has played alongside some of the best defenders in the league and can bring some composure and grit to a backline in desperate need of organisation. Baggies’ fans will also see a man eager to kickstart his career after dropping down the pecking order at the Etihad, so will have a point to prove he can still make a real impact in the Premier League – Alan Irvine will be certainly hoping so.

Predicted finish: 19th

The new manager has a mountain to climb and a full squad of players to settle after such a downbeat and disruptive year. I worry about their ability to create enough up front and the lack of protection they offer Ben Foster at the back. If Irvine and his new signings can hit the ground running, they may be in with a chance of survival, but I think they got lucky last year, and just as Wigan discovered, that luck has a habit of catching up on you.

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