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West Bromwich Albion season preview - predictions, fixtures, summer signings, starting XI

Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at West Bromwich Albion ahead of the start of the 2020-21 Premier League season.

West Bromwich Albion return to the Premier League this season after spending two years in the Championship.

The Baggies' last top-flight stay lasted eight years, but they are among the favourites to suffer relegation this term following their promotion as Championship runners-up in 2019-20.

Here, Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at Slaven Bilic's side ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.



How did they fare last season?

West Bromwich Albion players and staff celebrate winning promotion in 2019-20© Reuters

Very well.

Installed as one of the front-runners for promotion before the season began, West Brom quickly showed exactly why with a run of just one defeat in their opening 24 games - and that loss came away to eventual champions Leeds United.

A six-game winning streak from November 4 to December 8 appeared to put them well on course for a return to the Premier League, but their promotion hopes threatened to start fading when they suffered a seven-game winless run either side of the New Year.

The Baggies finally returned to form in February with 16 points in that month alone and, while there were a couple of wobbles left before the end of the season, they ultimately held on for automatic promotion.

Slaven Bilic's side did pick up only three points from the last 12 on offer to hand Brentford hope of chasing them down until a 2-2 draw against Queens Park Rangers on the final day secured a return to the top flight without the need for the playoffs.

Winning promotion was undoubtedly the high point of the campaign, but the low point perhaps came in the previous match when a shock defeat at Huddersfield Town ended their hopes of winning the title and, at the time, appeared to give Brentford the upper hand in the race for second.



Biggest improvement needed

More goals from midfield.

Only Brentford found the back of the net more often than West Brom in the Championship last season, while the Baggies also had more different goalscorers than any other club (19).

However, only seven of their 77 goals came from midfielders, with the bulk coming from their dangerous centre-forwards and wingers.

If they could add a goalscoring presence from midfield as well then it would only improve the threat of an already potent team, although Slaven Bilic may want one player to shoulder more of the scoring burden himself too considering Charlie Austin was their most prolific marksman last season with 11.



Manager: Slaven Bilic

West Brom manager Slaven Bilic on June 20, 2020© Reuters

Appointed last summer, Slaven Bilic earned both the club and himself a return to the Premier League at the first time of asking, having previously managed West Ham United in England's top fight from 2015 to 2017.

The 51-year-old left the Hammers with the best points-per-game ratio of any of their previous managers in the Premier League era, though, including a seventh-placed finish in his first season at the helm.

The well-travelled former defender has also managed in his native Croatia, Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.



Key player: Matheus Pereira

West Bromwich Albion's Matheus Pereira celebrates scoring their second goal on November 27, 2019© Reuters

Securing Matheus Pereira's signature on a permanent basis was always going to happen after a clause was triggered obligating West Brom to buy him, but getting the deal over the line took some time.

Baggies fans will be delighted to have the 24-year-old back in their ranks for four more years after he starred during his loan spell last season, registering an incredible 20 assists and getting his own name on the scoresheet eight times.

That was enough for Pereira to be voted West Brom's player of the season in their promotion campaign, and if he is as effective in the top flight then it will go a long way to securing survival.



Summer transfer business

Grady Diangana celebrates winning promotion with West Bromwich Albion in July 2020© Reuters

In
Matheus Pereira (£8.2m, Sporting Lisbon)
Grady Diangana (£12.2m, West Ham United)
Cedric Kipre (£990,000, Wigan Athletic)
David Button (£990,000, Brighton & Hove Albion)
Callum Robinson (undisclosed, Sheffield United)
Branislav Ivanovic (free, Zenit St Petersburg)
Conor Gallagher (loan, Chelsea)
Filip Krovinovic (loan, Benfica)
Karlan Grant (£14.9m, Huddersfield Town)

Out
Ali Al-Habsi (retired)
Nathan Ferguson (free, Crystal Palace)
Kane Wilson (free, Forest Green)
Finn Azaz (loan, Cheltenham Town)
Lee Peltier (released)
Gareth Barry (retired)
Jonathan Bond (released)
Chris Brunt (free, Bristol City)
Josh Griffiths (loan, Cheltenham Town)
Jonathan Leko (£990,000, Birmingham City)
Callum Morton (loan, Lincoln City)
Alex Palmer (loan, Lincoln City)
Oliver Burke (£5.9m, Sheffield United)
Rayhaan Tulloch (loan, Doncaster Rovers)
Owen Windsor (loan, Grimsby Town)
Kenneth Zohore (loan, Millwall)
Ahmed Hegazy (loan, Ittihad)

West Brom total spent to date: £36.4m
West Brom total received to date: £6.8m

West Brom net transfer balance: -£29.6m




Squad

1. Sam Johnstone (GK)
2. Darnell Furlong (DF)
3. Kieran Gibbs (DF)
4. Hal Robson-Kanu (FW)
5. Kyle Bartley (DF)
6. Semi Ajayi (DF)
7. Callum Robinson (FW)
8. Jake Livermore (MF)
9. Kenneth Zohore (FW)
10. Matt Phillips (MF)
11. Grady Diangana (MF)
12. Matheus Pereira (FW)
13. Kamil Grosicki (MF)
14. Conor Townsend (DF)
15. Charlie Austin (FW)
16. Rekeem Harper (MF)
19. Romaine Sawyers (MF)
21. Kyle Edwards (FW)
23. Jonathan Bond (GK)
24. Cedric Kipre (DF)
26. Ahmed Hegazi (DF)
27. Dara O'Shea (DF)
28. Sam Field (MF)
- David Button (GK)



Possible starting lineup

WBAXI



Fixture list

West Brom will welcome top-flight football back to The Hawthorns in their very first game of the season, hosting Leicester City on the opening Saturday.

A difficult December and January spell sees the Baggies take on Manchester City twice, West Midlands rivals Aston Villa, Liverpool and Arsenal in the space of eight games, starting the New Year at home to the latter.

West Brom must also face Arsenal and Liverpool in May before ending the campaign away to fellow promoted side Leeds United.

SEPTEMBER

12: Leicester City (h)

19: Everton (a)

26: Chelsea (h)

West Bromwich Albion's Romaine Sawyers in action with Fulham's Denis Odoi on July 14, 2020© Reuters

OCTOBER

3: Southampton (a)

17: Burnley (h)

24: Brighton (a)

31: Fulham (a)

NOVEMBER

7: Tottenham Hotspur (h)

21: Manchester United (a)

28: Sheffield United (h)

DECEMBER

5: Crystal Palace (h)

12: Newcastle United (a)

16: Manchester City (a)

19: Aston Villa (h)

26: Liverpool (a)

28: Leeds United (h)

Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa meets West Bromwich Albion counterpart Slaven Bilic© Reuters

JANUARY

2: Arsenal (h)

12: West Ham United (a)

16: Wolves (a)

26: Manchester City (h)

30: Fulham (h)

FEBRUARY

2: Sheffield United (a)

6: Tottenham Hotspur (a)

13: Manchester United (h)

20: Burnley (a)

27: Brighton (h)

MARCH

6: Newcastle United (h)

13: Crystal Palace (a)

20: Everton (h)

APRIL

3: Chelsea (a)

10: Southampton (h)

17: Leicester City (a)

24: Aston Villa (a)

Leeds United's Ezgjan Alioski scores their first goal against West Bromwich Albion on October 1, 2019© Reuters

MAY

1: Wolves (h)

8: Arsenal (a)

11: Liverpool (h)

15: West Ham United (h)

23: Leeds United (a)



Prediction: 19th

West Brom have some exciting talent and it will be fascinating to see how Grady Diangana and Matheus Pereira fare when given regular chances in the Premier League.

However, they had both of those players on loan at the club last season too and have not added to their squad too much in preparation for the step up to the top flight.

Sheffield United proved last season that keeping faith with those who earned promotion can sometimes yield great benefits, but on paper West Brom's starting XI and strength in depth looks weaker than most other teams in the Premier League so they will do well to avoid an immediate return to the Championship.


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General view of West Bromwich Albion's The Hawthorns taken November 2017
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
CManchester CityMan City38275683325186
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd382111673442974
3Liverpool38209968422669
4Chelsea381910958362267
5Leicester CityLeicester382061268501866
6West Ham UnitedWest Ham381981162471565
7Tottenham HotspurSpurs381881268452362
8Arsenal381871355391661
9Leeds UnitedLeeds38185156254859
10Everton38178134748-159
11Aston Villa38167155546955
12Newcastle UnitedNewcastle38129174662-1645
13Wolverhampton WanderersWolves38129173652-1645
14Crystal Palace38128184166-2544
15Southampton38127194768-2143
16Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton38914154046-641
17Burnley38109193355-2239
RFulham38513202753-2628
RWest Bromwich AlbionWest Brom38511223576-4126
RSheffield UnitedSheff Utd3872292063-4323

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