West Bromwich Albion return to the Premier League for 2020-21 season through a second place finish in the Championship. WBA spent two years in the Championship, last playing in the top-flight in the 2017-18 season when they finished dead last. West Brom had been a team in the EPL from 2010-11 until their relegation in 2018. So you may see some familiar names when they take the field this season.
Success in the Championship doesn’t always translate into success in the EPL, as we saw with Norwich City last season (and Aston Villa, even though they somehow survived). But we also saw Sheffield United surprise us all with truly wonderful season.
Before we look at West Brom, let’s do a quick stats check: When Norwich won the Championship in 2018-09, they did so by scoring a lot of goals, as in a lot goals (93 to be exact). That same season, Sheffield United had the best goals against record, conceding only 41 while still scoring in the top 5. Villa’s stats looked more like Norwich. Defenses in the top flight simply don’t give up goals the way teams may in the Championship, and so relying on lots of goals doesn’t seem like a strategy that carries over well from 2nd-tier to the EPL. However, relying on strong defense may translate much better. If you go back another season, you can see a similar trend with Wolves success and the struggles of Fulham and Cardiff.
Slaven Bilić’s West Brom were 3rd in goals against and 2nd in goals scored, so it seems like they at least have a chance for some EPL success. West Brom lost only seven games last year, but they drew 17, including 10 draws at home. They will need to translate some of those draws to wins.
From a fantasy standpoint, there are a few players I’m keeping my eye on.
Matheus Pereira. Attacking Midfielder. Pereira has all the makings of standout fantasy player, with 16 assists and 8 goals last season with the Baggies. You’d have to think that production would drop against EPL defenses, but he isn’t afraid to take people on, averaging almost three fouls suffered per game. With 2.5 shots and 2.5 key passes per game, points could come in different ways. He has wonderful vision and strong range of passing. I’m hoping Pereira will be listed as midfielder. The 24 year old Brazilian has a bit of flair and should be on your watch-list.
Defensive Options: As stated West Brom has a solid, though not stellar, defensive record. Center backs Semi Ajayi and Kyle Bartley could offer potential value when the match ups are right. Ajayi scored five goals, while Bartley had two scores plus two assists.
Attacking Options: We mentioned Periera who is really the one guy I’m keeping an eye on. Charlie Austin and Hal Robson-Kanu tied for team lead in scoring with 10 each. That doesn’t bode well for either scoring that many, although Austin did manage his tally in only 18 appearances. I will also be watching 22 year old Grady Diangana. With eight goals and six assists, this quick and crafty midfielder has an up side if he can find regular time and make the adjustment.
As most teams moving from the Championship, one has to think that a few new players will be brought in. A goal scorer would certainly help, but isn’t that true with any team?
What do you think about West Brom’s chances next year? What are they missing to have a successful season? Are you keeping your eye on anyone?