End of Season Report: West Bromwich Albion

22May 2013

England - Premier League

Romelu Lukaku has fired WBA to eighth place in the Premier League but will he still be at the club next season? Doubtful, says Joe Dyer, and replacing the young Belgian forward is the key task facing Steve Clarke this summer...

 

 

Season Summary - 8th

 

A final position of eighth confirms West Brom as this year's 'best of the rest' in what has unquestionably been a successful first season for Steve Clarke as a fully fledged Premier League manager. Formerly a no.2 to Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, Gianfranco Zola at West Ham and Kenny Dalglish at Liverpool, Clarke has long been touted as a manager of some promise and he confirmed that at the Hawthorns.

 

Buoyed throughout by the goals of Chelsea loanee Romelu Lukaku, the Baggies got off to a fast start and stood third in the table after 13 games in a season when they were never out of the top 10.  Notable results included a league double over Liverpool and an early season defeat of Chelsea - a 2-1 win that arguably precipitated the sacking of Champions League-winning manager Roberto Di Matteo.

 

But there are some worrying factors for Baggies fans to contemplate over the summer, notably the almost certain absence of the on-loan Lukaku next season and a worrying end of year slump which yielded just nine points from the final ten games.

 

 

Talking Point

 

Any team would miss a striker like Lukaku, who muscled his way to 17 goals in the league including a final day hat-trick to deny Sir Alex Ferguson a farewell win, but it may be more acute in WBA's case. Fellow striker Shane Long is a bustling presence who scored eight goals this year, but he has shown little sign that he can score as heavily as Lukaku while Peter Odemwingie, a relatively prolific scorer in recent seasons, is surely on his way out after a mid-season meltdown where he agitated for a move to QPR (of all teams). Like fellow Belgian forward Christian Benteke, Lukaku has simply smashed through the opposition at times this year and the Baggies have benefitted from the Belgian striker's breakthrough Premier League campaign but they may not get so lucky with his replacement next year.

 

 

Plus and Minus Points

 

There are plenty of pluses for Clarke to look back on - namely that fast start and some decent results in the league - but poor form once spring had sprung took the shine off what was a very promising first two thirds of the season. Very few teams have a chance at breaking the established elite at the top of the table and the Baggies had given themselves a decent chance of finishing above Liverpool or Everton, or possibly even both and making the top six. But ultimately they trailed in some way behind the Merseyside duo despite splitting the pair in the league as February became March.

 

WBA's cup form was nothing to write home about and Swansea, a team of comparable size and resources, have surely enjoyed the more successful campaign of the two. The Welsh outfit lifted the Capital One Cup and finished just three points off the Baggies in the table. The League Cup should be a legitimate target for a mid-sized, well-run Premier League outfit.

 

 

What Next

 

Improving on this season without Lukaku will be very tough and replacing the striker must be top of Clarke's to-do list this summer. Who that man is going to be and how West Brom finance the deal we just don't know.

 

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Keywords: End of Season, West Bromwich Albion

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