West Brom 2017/18 Season Preview: Strengths, Weaknesses, Key Man and Predictions

Finally, it's almost here. The summers are getting shorter, but it's still been a solid two months since Premier League action...and by god, we've missed it. 


It's a big season for the Baggies - time to start having a look at how the setup's looking...

1. Last Season

The 2016/17 season was an improved one for the Baggies, but not as much of one as it looked like being for some time. 


Cemented in eighth place for the majority of the campaign, the patented Tony Pulis end-of-season slide saw them drop below south coast pair Southampton and Bournemouth, finishing 10th with just two points more than the previous season. 


How bad was the slide? Just two points from the final nine games of the season meant that West Brom finished only five points above 17th place. That can't be allowed to happen again. 

2. Transfers In

In terms of incomings thus far, Jay Rodriguez is more or less the start and end of the list. A £12m fee for the injury-prone Southampton man says that he's probably not being brought in as an unquestioned starter, but more of a strong option to challenge Salomon Rondon. 


Tony Pulis has insisted that offers have been made but as it stands, the cupboard's pretty bare. 

3. Transfers Out

No major outgoings...except captain and midfield stalwart Darren Fletcher, who played all but 195 minutes of the 3420 in the Premier League last season. 


The Baggies will miss his leadership, but not necessarily his experience - with a squad already packed full of top flight veterans. 


Craig Gardner has also departed for Birmingham but, having started just two league games last season, Pulis won't exactly be scouring the transfer market for a direct replacement. 

4. Strengths

It feels like a cliche to say this about a Pulis side, but...set pieces. It's not by accident that defenders scored 12 of the side's goals last season - and they're a dab hand at keeping things tight at the back from corners and free kicks too. 


Matty Phillips remains one of the better crossers of the ball in the division, and Ben Foster will be looking at a genuine England push if he keeps up his shot-stopping form from the end of last season. 

5. Weaknesses

In a word: goals. When an aeons-old Gareth McAuley is your second top scorer with six goals, something's wonky. When your top scorer is a striker who played every single league game of the season and scored eight goals - and only one in the whole of 2017 - it's worse than wonky. 


If there's to be any progress, something also has to be done about the end-of-season drop-off too. Motivation is key. 

6. Key Man

Salomon Rondon. He ended the season horribly, yet seven goals in 16 games at the start of the season showed the Venezuelan's potential as a genuine hitman. 


If he can put together two good halves of a season, the Baggies could have the goals for a genuine top seven challenge. 


Potential breakout: Jonathan Leko

7. Predictions

For all that last season had its positives, Pulis and co more or less spaffed all of their progress up against the wall in the second half of the campaign. 


Business needs to be done - and fast. This is an old side in need of regeneration; the 16 players who played the most minutes last season were aged 26 or older, and new boy Jay Rodriguez is 28. 


With the strengthening around the rest of the league, this could be a tough season at the Hawthorns. 


Final position: 14th