At the time of writing, there are only five days left of the January transfer window and just as the fans predicted, it looks as though it’s going to be another quiet one for the Baggies.
Albion chairman Jeremy Peace has always been reluctant to do business in this window, but the worry I have is if he takes the same stance in this window and we bring in maybe one, or worse no-one, the consequences could be catastrophic. There are three things that really concern me. The injuries to the squad, Pulis’ reluctance to give the fringe players a chance and the signings the clubs currently below us are making.
In the treatment room currently we have James Morrison, Chris Brunt and Salomon Rondon. These three have been first team regulars from day one and have contributed efficiently towards our half decent current points tally. Brunt and Rondon aren’t expected to be out too long, but Morrison however has been confirmed out for up to eight weeks. This is a major cause for concern as the midfielder is the only player currently within our ranks seemingly capable of playing in that ‘number 10’ role.
Craig Gardner and Victor Anichebe have been tasked recently to fill in there but have proved mostly ineffective. Even though we need reinforcements at both left-back and up front, if there is one position that desperately needs strengthening it’s that attacking midfielder role. You only need to look at the stats for the games Morrison has missed so far to see how important a role he plays in the team. We have been unable to register even a single shot on target in a couple of those matches, so bringing in a replacement is clearly a matter of urgency.
Another cause for concern is Pulis’ outright refusal to give any of the players currently on the fringes a chance. Even when there have been injuries to one of his ‘favourites’, he is seemingly more in favour of readjusting his select bunch and putting them in positions they don’t normally play, rather than giving a player on the fringes who specialises in playing in that position an opportunity to impress.
Yes, we don’t see what takes place on the training pitch day in, day out but in recent matches where he has tinkered and played his preferred players in unfamiliar positions we have struggled, especially going forward. Surely it’s time he gave them a chance, especially if we aren’t going to bring in reinforcements this month. We can’t just rely on 13/14 players for a whole season – it will just end in disaster.
My last concern, and probably the biggest, is the money being spent by the teams below us. Newcastle, Bournemouth and Norwich have been the most active out of these teams so far and in my opinion strengthened very well. Decent money has been spent on the likes of Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle), Steven Naismith (Norwich) and Benik Afobe (Bournemouth) – players that will undoubtedly improve their chances of staying up this season.
The new Premier League TV rights deal that comes in next season means there is an even bigger incentive to stay in the division. This has seen the majority of chairman take action and back their managers/head coaches by bringing in transfer targets this month. Not Peace. He remains as stubborn as ever and it looks very unlikely that any of Pulis’ targets will be brought in.
These three things, coupled together with the strong possibility that no new arrivals will be coming into the club, will more than likely see us right in the thick of a relegation dogfight come the latter stages of the season. It’s funny as only a couple of months or so ago I wrote a blog for Shoot asking whether a top-10 finish and even European football was a possibility! It was on the back of a decent run when we were only five points off a European spot. In my defence I did state that it will be dependent on whether any business is done in January, but I honestly didn’t expect to see us sitting in such a precarious position with only a handful of days remaining in the transfer window.
How quickly things can change in football, eh?