Baggies Season Preview
Well, here we are again. It's that time of year again when football fans are full of hope and dreams, unspoiled by a league table. Although, that has not always been the way at the Albion going into the first game. This hope is a recent phenomena. Damn that Jeremy Peace, I quite liked my expectations low. We all know that it's the hope that kills you.
It's quite amazing that most Baggies are full of hope this season. Losing one of the best managers in our history could potentially have been catastrophic. It may still be. However, our foundations are so solid after the work of the past few years, I wouldn't bet against us once again punching above our budgetary weight and making a few pundits eat their words.
I have read many a pre season preview about how losing Roy will see us struggle this season. I think every SKY pundit has us down before a ball is kicked. Many a London hack see a struggle for us. Only the ones that know their Midlands football have given a more rounded view, like Neil Moxley for example.
Roy going was a blow. Taking on an unproven manager is a risk. However, I have loved how we have gone about our work this summer. I can't remember a more positive and calm approach to player recruitment than what we have seen this summer. We have given Clarke every chance to hit the ground running.
Our clubs aim is simple. Build on what we have, identify players that can improve us and move players on to accommodate, all within a sound financial plan. For example, Paul Scharner out, Claudio Yacob in. It is a fine example of what we are about. Both strong defensive midfielders, one coming to the end of his career, one moving into his prime. Yacob will be a star for us, of that I am sure. Yet Yacob will cost us less than Scharns wages wise.
Keeping hold of all the players we want to keep and adding quality is a fantastic achievement. There are few clubs that can say they have managed this during the summer. But Yacob, Lukaku, Rosenberg and El Ghanassy will all add something different to a squad good enough to finish half way the last 2 seasons. Plus we now have the 2nd best keeper in the country signed up.
Of course, the Clarke factor is a big unknown. How will he cope? However, we aren't talking about a novice to football here. You don't have the career he has had in football without knowing your onions. I think we will begin slowly, its not the easiest of starts. However, I have a real positive feeling that he will surprise the sceptics.
The early signs are good. I am hearing really positive things about how the players have really taken to him and are enjoying the training. The tactics have changed, with a move to the Mourinho/Clarke 4231 formation that worked so well at Chelsea. Two defensive midfielders, a fluid 3 in front with a lone striker. We will probably see more risks than under Roy but not too much.
The one concern I have with the squad is in defence, Roy made us hard to beat but that wasn't necessarily because the back four and keeper were so good. The midfield four gave a lot of support, especially the wingers. The new formation may leave us a little exposed down the flanks, we lack defensive pace. I hope we are looking to add some pace back there before the window shuts.
That apart, we look ready to go. A lovely feeling given that we normally leave things to the last moment. Credit the chairman and Dan Ashworth and his team for that. Lets hope the FA leave us alone eh? However, if they do come for Dan, as this summer has shown, we will cope. We are strong from top to bottom.
This is the best squad of players the club has ever had. The first 11 in the late 70s were better, but we have never had this strength in depth at any time.
Enjoy the season. I know I am going to.