With last Saturday’s dour stalemate away at Sunderland all but confirming Premier League football for another season, the coaching staff and scouts can now focus some of their attention to this summer’s recruitment drive and start thinking about what ‘dead wood’ they want shipped out.
Like the majority of Baggies fans out there, I feel wholesale changes need to be made if we are to progress next season. Even though we have a respectable points haul currently and are still in contention for a top ten finish, there’s no denying the football has been hard to watch for a good proportion of the campaign, with excitement and goals very much coming at a premium.
I am a fan of Tony Pulis though and feel if he’s given the opportunity to really shake up the squad, he could turn us into a top ten outfit. We have a really good spine to the team and if he can complement that with some attacking players of his choice, I’m confident that the quality of football on show will improve.
I have broken down the three areas; defence, midfield and attack, and gone through who I think the club should retain and who they should be shipping out:
Keep: Ben Foster, Boaz Myhill, Craig Dawson, Jonny Evans, James Chester, Gareth McAuley
Move On: Anders Lindegaard, Cristian Gamboa, Sébastien Pocognoli, Jonas Olsson
Starting between the sticks; I can see Pulis trying to bring in another keeper. As much as Foster is a top goalkeeper and Myhill a more than capable reserve, Foster’s injuries in recent seasons are a cause for concern and I’m sure Pulis will look to bring in further competition for the duo.
In terms of centre-backs, we are currently well stocked, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make additions. Olsson for me needs to be moved on. Bar a handful of decent performances, he has looked shaky and I think a more capable, younger replacement needs to be brought in for him.
Bringing in some full-backs is probably the manager’s top priority in the summer as there is absolutely no chance either Gamboa or Pocognoli will still be at the club come the close of the next transfer window. Dawson has done brilliantly at right-back, whilst both Chester and Evans have covered admirably at left-back, so a bare minimum of two full-backs, one right and one left, need to be bought.
Keep: Darren Fletcher, Claudio Yacob, James McClean, Callum McManaman, James Morrison, Chris Brunt
Move On: Craig Gardner, Stephane Sessegnon, Sandro (Loan), Alex Pritchard (Loan)
Creativity! Creativity is what needs addressing when it comes to our midfield. The squad currently is over saturated with ‘grafters’ and is in desperate need of an injection of attacking intent and flair. Pulis does have the likes of McClean, Morrison, McManaman, Brunt and Sessegnon within his ranks, but there is a good chance the latter will be moved on in the summer and with question marks over McManaman’s, Morrison’s and Brunt’s futures (personally I would like to see all three retained), it’s vital some creative and attacking-minded midfielders are brought in.
Even though Gardner has put in some impressive performances of late, I personally think he could be moved on in order to create space for a more promising individual and I also do not see the need to make Sandro’s loan deal permanent as both Fletcher and Yacob are much better players in my opinion and have formed a very promising partnership in the last season and a half.
Keep: Salomon Rondon, Saido Berahino (Likely to be sold)
Move On: Rickie Lambert, Victor Anichebe
Up front for me is where the biggest changes will be made. With Berahino almost certain to leave in the next transfer window, we are then left with Rondon, Lambert and Anichebe. Of those three; only Rondon is good enough in my opinion, having proved a real handful in his debut season in the division.
Anichebe and Lambert have done very little to impress and Pulis will undoubtedly want rid of the duo in order to replace them with much better in the summer. That means we need to bring in at least two more strikers, if not three in the summer.
We all know strikers don’t come cheap, so a lot will come down to how much the club can make from the Berahino transfer. In order to progress; we really need to be bringing in two players of similar calibre to Rondon, but he cost the club approximately £12m, so Pulis will have to work wonders if he’s to convince chairman Jeremy Peace to part ways with that kind of money once again, or twice!