In this pre-season mini-series focusing on the promoted teams' FPL options, FPL Stag takes a look at off looking 19/20 Championship runners-up, West Bromwich Albion.
It's just two years since West Brom were last in the Premier League. Tony Pulis' Baggies had been a source of consistent clean sheets (at least up until the 40 point mark was reached) for FPL managers for about a season and a half until it all went wrong in late '16/17 and early '17/18. The team never recovered under the former Stoke boss, who was replaced by Alan Pardew after four wins in 22 outings and later Darren Moore had a brief tenure at the helm where he almost saved the club from the drop. Playoff semi-final defeat to Aston Villa on penalties scuppered the midlanders' attempt at an instant return to the PL but under Slaven Bilic, they nicked the second automatic promotion spot from Brentford in spite of a late season dip in form
LEI || eve || CHE || sou || BUR || bha
Any fixture difficulty algorithm I have viewed rates West Brom's fixtures as average and that seems fair. Starting the season against top six opposition seems like a stark challenge but you have to wonder which Leicester side will show up given their slump for the second half of the last campaign and throughout Project Restart. Chelsea will be a stern test and may well give this Baggies side a hiding but Bilic could justifiably target early points against the rest of WBA's early opponents.
Play style and FPL prospects
Slaven Bilic is no stranger to the Premier League having spent a couple of seasons at West Ham in the last five years. In 2015/16, he led them to an extremely respectable 7th place finish with Dimitri Payet the leading light for the final season where the Hammers called the Boleyn Ground home. Payet's acrimonious and drawn out departure marred the first half of a disappointing 2016/17 season where the club finished 11th. Bilic was sacked a third of the way through the following campaign. He remains the best West Ham manager in the Premier League era in terms of points won per game (1.33).
Even at West Ham, Bilic used the 4-2-3-1 formation which fans at The Hawthorns have become accustomed to over the last twelve months but the former Croatia boss will adapt on occasion, using a 4-3-3 later last term to arrest a drop in form. When attacking in the 4-2-3-1, Bilic requires a lot of work from his full-backs to get forward and support attacks, with the wide men in the “3” holding a narrow position inside the full-backs. The striker (last term Robson-Kanu or Austin) is not a “big man knocking the ball down”, rather another option for quick interchanges to create space and break through a deep defensive line. Naturally, such a tactic made sense at Championship level where the majority of teams would have feared the Baggies; this won't be the case at the higher level. Two defensive midfielders hold position and support the centre-backs to combat counter attacks and to allow players further forward to press when out of possession. This has left West Brom exposed on the wings on occasion