West Bromwich Albion winter window manifesto for top half finish
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | January 4, 2016
Look up mid-table Premier League team in the dictionary, and you’d definitely see a picture of West Bromwich Albion illustrating the term.
The Baggies occupy that no man’s land between not really being in relegation danger (10/1 with Coral to go down) and finishing in the top 10 (a 12/1 chance).
Under a manager like Tony Pulis, consistency is virtually assured, but chairman Jeremy Peace has always had an ambitious streak, which often becomes ruthless if The Hawthorns outfit starts to stagnate or decline.
What do West Brom need, then, to kick on from mediocrity during the January transfer window? Here are some thought from our football experts…
Use upcoming Euro 2016 to their advantage
There’s little more than five months to go before Euro 2016 takes centre stage. Players who may have lost their places with club teams will be wanting to regular first-team football to cement squad spaces for the tournament finals held in France this summer.
And that’s where the Baggies can come in. If Pulis is prepared to offer those moved to the fringes at fellow Premier League sides by the emergence of other players, then he can bolster his squad.
Speculation is mounting that Albion will bring France right back Mathieu Debuchy in on loan, now they have sent winger Serge Gnabry back to parent club Arsenal. Debuchy, who is out of favour at the Gunners, will offer more going forward than conservative option Craig Dawson in this Baggies berth.
Why stop there, though? Belgium winger Kevin Mirallas has seen his first-team opportunities limited at Everton this term. A similar approach may appeal, especially as Pulis prefers wingplay and Mirallas is a clear upgrade on his existing wide options.
James McClean has been little more than a loose cannon since joining West Brom, while Callum McManaman and Stephane Sessegnon similarly lack consistent end product. Some Mirallas magic could certainly take this team up a level.
Bite the bullet and sell Berahino
It is clear to anyone who has even taken a casual interest in the Baggies that star striker Saido Berahino is unhappy at the club. That is reflected in a poor return of just three goals in 15 games this term when he got 20 across all competitions last term.
Pulis’ tough stance with Berahino is admirable to opponents of player power, but it is now approaching the time to make a difficult decision. If Albion do not sell their Burundi-born forward, then they run a real risk that his value will depreciate.
Should reported suitors Spurs come in with another £20m offer, it may be wiser to take the money and reinvest in improving the Baggies squad than retaining a talent who doesn’t want to be there.
As Pulis prefers a more physical centre forward anyway, Victor Anichebe, Rickie Lambert and Jose Salomon Rondon are enough striking options on the books.
Whether West Brom fans like it or not, they have been a selling club when it comes to their best players. Differences with Berahino show no sign of being patched up, so cashing in on him is to everyone’s benefit.
Look at a new left back
While Debuchy, as mentioned above, or Ahmed Elmohamady are linked with being brought to The Hawthorns to occupy the right-hand side of defence, it’s the other flank where the Baggies look really short.
Because Pulis doesn’t fancy converted winger Sebastian Pocognoli, long-serving Chris Brunt has dropped back to play on this flank. The Northern Ireland international is not a natural here either, so this ought to be an area to focus on.
Instead of going in for Elmohamady, Albion should instead try for Hull City teammate Andrew Robertson, who is young at 21 with bags of potential. Scotland teammates Darren Fletcher and James Morrison would be famliar faces to him from Gordon Strachan’s national setup.
Robertson would represent the typical best of British signing everyone associates with Pulis, and he would have a lot of wise old defensive heads around him at West Brom. Learning from veteran Gareth McAuley or the long-serving Jonas Olsson would stand him in good stead.
Adding some established internationals such as Debuchy and Mirallas, alongside a willing outlet like Robertson, would surely catapult the Baggies higher up the Premier League table during the second-half of this season.