West Brom may have needed help from Brentford and Fulham to secure automatic promotion to the Premier League but the Baggies are back! But they’re a little different from the plodding defensive sides that you remember Tony Pulis (or Alan Pardew) rolling into battle. Upon relegation in 2018, a new team was being born. It started with Darren Moore beginning to instill an attacking vIbe but he was unable to see the Midlands makeover to fruition. Enter, Slaven Bilic. Bilic has had a career of ups and downs but his most notable achievement was getting to West Ham into the Europa League in 2016/17 (who would’ve known that it was all downhill from there for West Ham).
Bilic favors a high pressing attacking 4-2-3-1 and his West Brom side controlled possession in the Championship en route to becoming one of the most proficient attacking outfits in the league. Everything flows through the feet of Matheus Pereira who continues a trend of impressive attacking midfielders being formed in the Championship. Pereira scored eight goals while providing 16(!) assists. But make no mistake, this is no one-man team.
Five players chipped in double-digit goal contributions for the Baggies. Grady Diangana, Matt Phillips, Charlie Austin, and Hal Robson-Kanu all made their mark for the joint-second highest-scoring team in the Championship. But unlike Norwich City last year, all the goals didn’t come at the expense of their defense with West Brom only allowing 10 shots per game as their press forced turnovers with regularity. Only Leeds United and Brentford allowed fewer goals than the Baggies 45 showing the balance at both sides of the pitch.
Transfer wise, West Brom has been quiet so far in the market only making three moves, but considering the premier league experience already on the team, those two moves may be enough. Periera has signed on a permanent deal from Sporting CP for 10.1 million dollars, a bargain for the talents that he provides. Grady Diangana has also made his stay permanent for 20 million dollars plus add-ons drawing some choice words from Mark Noble and other members of the West Ham team. That alone should be a testament to his potential with this team. Cedric Kipre is the final new face at the Hawthorns, but he’s likely more of a depth signing/ one for the future as the Baggies already have adequate starting center backs.
One place where West Brom will need help is in the forward department where they reportedly had a 16 million dollar bid turned down for Karlan Grant. Grant is expected to be left out of Huddersfield’s Carabo Cup match vs Rochdale so it seems that there may be legs to that rumor. Grant did well in his limited premier league time with Huddersfield then showed his clinical side in the Championship en route to 19 goals. He would be a solid addition to the attack pushing Robson-Kanu and Kenneth Zohore down the depth chart. In a necessary move, it also looks like David Button will be joining from Brighton to be the backup keeper. But what can we expect fantasy-wise from the baggies?
Keeper: Sam Johnstone (4.5m) is a perfectly serviceable keeper but nothing flashy. There’s a reason why FPL managers want David Button (4.0m) to come in and pip him for his spot between the sticks.
Defense (every defender in the squad is priced at 4.5m): West Brom has some names that you’d be familiar with in Ahmed Hegazi and Keiran Gibbs but don’t let that familiarity cause you to add them to your fantasy teams as they have become role players. Semi Ajayi is one to look at considering that he was able to get on the end of five goals in the Championship but considering that some of the worst set play defenses in the Premier League can put five past the Baggies in the attack, his upside is limited. But he’s 100 percent one to watch in draft. Dara O’Shea and Darnell Furlong could be good assets if one gets the majority of starts at right-back but at the moment, they eat into each other’s potential too much making them nothing but streaming options.
Midfield: I love Pereira (6.m) in draft leagues. His creativity and eye for goal are on another level and will surely lead to FPL points. But I love him less so in FPL mainly due to his competition in the 6.0m price range. Do you think that Pereira will outscore James Ward-Prowse (6.0m), Allan Saint-Maximin (5.5m), Stuart Armstrong (5.5m), or even Tomas Soucek (5.0m)? I don’t, so i’ll be staying away. Diangana is another interesting prospect for draft leagues, but at 5.5m, there are better options in FPL.
Matt Phillips (5.5m) is the only other name to consider in draft leagues here but his hamstrings always scare me. But everywhere he has spent time, Phillips has been involved in goals. 10+ goal contributions in five of his last six seasons, three of which were in the Premier League, is nothing to sneeze at.
Forward: This is where things peter out a little which is why it makes sense that forward is a position being targeted as an area for improvement. Charlie Austin (5.5m) generally deputized at the nine but he also hasn’t started 20 games for a team since the 14/15 season. Austin can be an effective Premier League scorer, but relying on Austin as your best option up top won’t end well. Robson-Kanu (5.5) is also more effective as a change of pace from the bench while Kenneth Zohore is a venture into the unknown as far as premier league success goes.
A team can’t stay up if they don’t score goals and while the Baggies can expect a lot of production from midfield, this group of forwards is… uninspiring. Hopefully, they can add Grant as that could take their fantasy prospects up a few notches.
Fantasy wise, I’ll be adding the entire attacking midfield to my watchlist. Their first five games with Leicester, Everton, Chelsea, and Southampton will be tough sledding but it gives managers time to figure out the rotations before their next five where the points should flow.
Out of all of the promoted teams, West Brom is the one that I have the most positive outlook on when it comes to avoiding the drop. The depth in Premier League experience, a manager who has been around, and a star in the making in Periera makes this seem like a better version of last year’s Aston Villa team that avoided the drop by the skin of their teeth. I do have concerns in central midfield as Jake Livermore isn’t getting any younger and Romaine Sawyers doesn’t have a high defensive work-rate. But, with the wing talent, West Brom can easily play around their weaknesses and produce goals. I could see this team finishing 15th in the league as is but they can go as high as 12th with the right additions.