I have to say I have been surprised by West Brom this season.
I wasn’t one of the people suggesting that the Baggies would struggle this season, but never in a million years thought Steve Clarke’s men would be in the top four of the Premier League at this stage of the season.
West Brom as a football club have been very shrewd in recent years.
The Baggies are a model for any club trying to achieve Premier League stability on a budget. They have shaken off the tag of a yo-yo club.
They are now Premier League regulars and this season have managed to get themselves amongst the big boys challenging for the European places. The club have also made some very shrewd managerial decisions in recent years.
West Brom boss Steve Clarke deserves immense credit for West Brom’s success so far this season. The Scot was a first team coach for a long time and there were doubts about whether he could make the step-up to number one.
However, he has made the transition with ease. Apparently he doesn’t try to overcomplicate things and makes his ideas easy to understand for his players. Clarke was a highly-rated coach at both Chelsea and Liverpool.
He was trusted lieutenant to Jose Mourinho at Chelsea and the Portuguese boss trusted him completely. Clarke obviously learnt a lot from his former-boss at Stamford Bridge.
West Brom had won four games on the bounce until Wednesday night, when the Baggies were defeated 3-1 at Swansea. It will be interesting to see how the West Brom players respond to the defeat against Stoke today.
West Brom have a strong home record and will be expecting to get back to winning ways against the Potters. However Stoke are a tough side to beat and will provide Clarke’s men with a tough test.
This could be the acid test for the Baggies. Teams that finish in the top four usually recover quickly from defeats. If West Brom realistically wants to challenge for the European places then they need to bounce back quickly.
When West Brom have everybody fit and healthy they have a very decent team, but I don’t think they have any major strength in-depth in their squad. Unfortunately they don’t have the financial resources to carry a huge squad, or bring in a host of quality players.
If reports are to be believed on-loan striker Romelu Lukaku could return to parent club Chelsea in January. The Belgium striker has scored some vital goals this season for the Baggies, despite not being a regular starter.
Republic of Ireland striker Shane Long has been impressive this season, but Lukaku’s departure would leave West Brom short on quality attacking options. Steve Clarke has said that he has a contingency plan to replace Lukaku. I just hope it’s a good one for West Brom’s sake.
West Brom’s presence in the top four really is refreshing. I really do hope that the Baggies can sustain their form this season and grab a European spot.
I don’t think Steve Clarke’s men will be able to hold on to a place in the top four, but a place in the top six would be a great achievement for Steve Clarke in his first season as Baggies boss.
Will West Brom qualify for the Champions League?