Key Player: Shane Long
In: Manager Steve Clarke, Yassine El Ghanassy, Ben Foster, Markus Rosenberg
Out: Manager Roy Hodgson, Nickey Shorey, Keith Andrews, Paul Scharner
Roy Hodgson is gone and a new West Bromwich era begins with ex-Liverpool coach Steve Clarke in charge. That’s a major gamble at The Hawthorns where Hodgson brought stability both on the field and off. His defensive acumen made the Baggies a handful even against the top clubs and his low-key, make-the-best-of-it approach seemed the perfect fit for a team with always-limited aims. Enter Clarke to begin his managerial career at a club where the glass is always half-full, but where the bartender isn’t about to be topping anybody up through the transfer market.
Shane Long had flashes of brilliance a year ago, but his season – and ultimately his ability to contribute to Ireland at Euro 2012 — slipped away. At his best, he could run with any defender in the league and hold the ball under pressure. When he was at his best and Peter Odemwingie was working the opposite wing, West Brom was extremely hard to contain even without a true midfield general to pull the strings. Clarke needs to find a way to get that form from Long so that he has a pair of wingers to open up the game on counters. After all, West Brom is going to succeed to the degree that they can make that style of play work.