West Brom 2020/21: Can Slaven Bilic make the Baggies more than a yo-yo club?

Ahead of the new season, we look at West Brom's prospects back in the Premier League. Do they have enough to survive?

The Baggies are back in the big time after they claimed the second automatic promotion spot on the final day behind Leeds in the Sky Bet Championship. Many teams struggle when losing their Premier League status but West Brom quietly went about their business following relegation two years ago and the absence from the top table has only been a short-term one.

However, it's worth noting they did stumble over the line. At the end of February, just two games before the season was suspended, Albion were briefly seven points clear of Leeds at the top and 13 ahead of fellow promotion chasers Brentford. The club spent the last 297 days of the season in the automatic promotion places but got up on the final day by the skin of their teeth, mostly down to Brentford freezing under pressure.

Leading their foray back is the likeable and experienced Slaven Bilic, who has some unfinished business at this level after a stale end to his West Ham tenure in 2017. His risk to take a job in the Championship certainly paid off and his charisma makes him a manager to listen closely to when speaking to the media.

West Brom transfer business so far

Matheus Pereira - Sporting, £8.25m
Cedric Kipre - Wigan, free
Grady Diangana - West Ham, £18m
Callum Robinson - Sheffield United, exchange deal

Chris Brunt - released

Where they're strong

Creating chances shouldn't be a problem for the Baggies, although finishing them might be - onto that shortly.

Matheus Pereira and Grady Diangana are two supremely talented ball carriers that gave Championship defenders nightmares last season. The on-loan West Ham man, who has signed on a permanent deal, had a hand in eight goals and six assists while Pereira's tally of 16 assists and eight goals last season was a standout for goal involvements at the club as he spearheaded their charge in maintaining their place in the top two.

West Brom ranked behind only Leeds for goals and attempts at goal last season, but their promotion-winning campaign was driven in large part by the talents of Pereira.

Key man

Pereira has all the tools to make the step up to the Premier League. Even when the club's form dipped towards the end of the campaign, he kept his level high to make some vital contributions. He was the only man in the league to create over 100 chances for his team-mates.

The forward triggered a permanent move for £8.25m in June from Sporting Lisbon after making his 30th start of the season. West Brom's sporting and technical director Luke Dowling deserves a big pat on the back for this one - that transfer fee looks a shrewd bit of business. Prepare to be impressed.

Where they need to improve

West Brom made use of the loan market to their advantage last season. Pereira, Diangana, Filip Krovinovic and Callum Robinson all stepped up when required. Pereira, Diangana and Robinson have all been snapped up on permanent deals but a focal point in attack for the exciting talents to feed off is missing. Aston Villa never replaced the influence of the on-loan Tammy Abraham through the middle of last season and West Brom look to be in the same predicament as they have yet to dip into the market for a striker. Charlie Austin - in his pomp, as shown with QPR - would be more than able but is a diminishing force while Hal Robson-Kanu has yet to convince he's a Premier League player.

Question marks also hang over whether West Brom will be solid enough to endure England's top flight, having averaged only 55 per cent possession and ranked sixth for passes completed in the second tier last season.

Bilic preferred an attacking 4-2-3-1 formation en-route to promotion as runners-up, but could look to adopt another system in an effort to retain longer periods with the ball.

However, Burnley and Sheffield United provide evidence that inferior possession can still yield success, averaging at just 41 and 42 per cent possession in the Premier League last season, respectively.

One to watch

Romaine Sawyers has worked his way through the lower leagues and his talent has finally reached the elite level, something many people envisaged when he was bossing games in League One with Walsall. His partnership in the engine room with the reliable Jake Livermore should be well suited to the dynamic nature of this league. Livermore does the dirty work while Sawyers starts attacks with creative passing and forceful ball carrying.

The 28-year-old is a late bloomer but players like Jamie Vardy and Adam Lallana had similar profiles and managed to flourish at this level. Sawyers could follow suit.

What is success for the Baggies in 2020/21?

Sheffield United proved last season that promoted teams should have no fear when it comes to their ceiling of success. However, the Baggies strike more of a Norwich-type, possessing a flamboyant attacking unit that will look easy on the eye but one that may struggle to pick up points. Bilic's experience of previous Premier League campaigns just might be where West Brom have their edge.

Survival will be the one and only goal.

Source: Sky Sports

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