Breakdown, Preview and Predictions for West Bromwich Albion's 2012-13 Season

Ben Chodos@bchodosCorrespondent IIAugust 11, 2012

Breakdown, Preview and Predictions for West Bromwich Albion's 2012-13 Season

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    West Bromwich Albion were the definition of a mid-table English Premier League team last season, finishing 10th.

    The team displayed remarkable consistency, as it was the second consecutive season that it finished with 47 points—although that total earned the Baggies 11th place in the 2010-11 season.

    These are positive results heading into the team's third straight year in the Premiership. 

    While a slight improvement would certainly please supporters, another middle-of-the-pack finish would be nothing to complain about. New manager Steve Clarke's ability to achieve this result will be looked at in my next EPL preview as I focus on West Brom.

    Here is a quick summer recap and a look forward to everything that will happen to the Baggies in the upcoming season. 

Transfers In, Transfers out

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    Transfers In Transfers Out
    Claudio Yacob Nick Shorey
    Yassine El Ghanassy (Loan) Lateef Elford-Aliyu
    Romelu Lukaku (Loan) Joe Mattock
    Markus Rosenberg Keith Andrews
      Paul Downing

     

    Key Arrivals

    Romelu Lukaku

    Lukaku is an exciting young talent who will spend the season with West Bromwich Albion on loan from Chelsea. The 6'3", 207-pound striker is one of the most physically imposing presences in football and he has the potential to make a serious impact for the Baggies this season.

    The 19-year-old's talent would have been wasted on the Chelsea bench, but now he will be able to see the pitch more often. Two seasons ago, Danny Welbeck scored six goals in 21 league starts for Sunderland while on loan from Manchester United, and Lukaku is completely capable of putting on a similar performance for West Brom this year.

     

    Markus Rosenberg

    The Baggies had an average attack this past season, but it is likely to improve with the addition of Swedish striker Rosenberg alongside Lukaku.

    Rosenberg put in 10 goals and dished out five assists in 33 Bundesliga appearances for Werder Bremen this past season. The 29-year-old is productive and reliable, and Steve Clarke was extremely wise to pounce on him before he signed with another club.

     

    Key Departures

    Nick Shorey

    Shorey was an often-used left back this past season who moved to the newly promoted Reading. He was not overly impressive in his 25 league appearances, and will not be sorely missed.

    The has not yet signed another outside back, leaving Liam Ridgewell as the likely replacement. There is not all that much difference between these two players, and Ridgewell may even be an improvement at the position.

     

    Keith Andrews

    The Irish international was used as a utility midfielder, making eight starts and six appearances as a substitute in league matches. 

    He is a tough and determined veteran who would have provided depth, but in the end, his departure will not have a significant effect on the team. West Brom did well this summer, adding a few exciting talents while keeping its core pieces.

Biggest Matches and Full Schedule

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    The full West Bromwich Albion Schedule can be found via the team's website. Here are the must-see matches. 

     

    Vs. Liverpool, Saturday, August 18

    In a strange twist of fate, Steve Clarke's first Premier League match as a permanent manager will come against the club he recently left.

    Clarke was the first-team coach under Kenny Dalglish, but left Liverpool after Brendan Rodgers arrived. Now, West Brom will face off with the Reds in their opening fixture.

    Clarke will know the strengths and weaknesses of the Liverpool lineup, and a victory here would be a fantastic way to start the season. 

     

    At Aston Villa, Sunday, September 30

    This historic rivalry has cooled a bit in recent years as West Brom's feelings towards Wolverhampton have intensified, but the Baggies' third straight season with two guaranteed matches against Aston Villa—and Wolves' absence from the EPL—should keep this contest interesting.

    The Baggies had never been competitive in the Premiership until the 2010-11 season, but they have two wins and a draw over Villa in the teams' last four league meetings.

    The Lions will be desperately trying to regain the upper hand in the rivalry, and the determination on both sides will be evident.

     

    At Chelsea, Saturday, March 2

    At this point in the season, Romelu Lukaku will have had ample time to adjust to West Brom's tactics and begin playing to his potential.

    His boundless abilities will make him a nightmare for Chelsea to guard, and the Blues may walk away from this match wishing they had not loaned out the rising star.

    If he can get a goal and help the Baggies to a positive result, it will be an excellent result to help propel the team forward for the rest of the season. 

Key Players

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    Youssuf Mulumbu

    The 25-year-old midfielder was a strong defensive presence for West Bromwich Albion in the center of the pitch this past season. 

    His 2.9 interceptions per game ranked fifth among Premier League players while his 2.9 tackles ranked fifteenth, according to Whoscored.com.

    He was a stabilizing presence with his willingness to contribute defensively, and his fine form will be necessary for the Baggies to win ball in the midfield. 

     

    Ben Foster

    Foster had a lackluster career at Manchester United, but after moving to Birmingham then spending last season on loan with in the Hawthorns, he has found a place where he can be successful.

    At 29, he has found a way to limit mistakes due to inconsistency and play up to his potential. He had a fantastic season this past year for the Baggies, and he looks ready to continue playing at a high level.

    With a reliable shot-blocker between the posts, West Brom could have an excellent season in the back. 

     

    Romelu Lukaku

    West Bromwich has many players who are reliable, but get by more on effort and intelligence than they do because of skill and talent. This makes them a decent side, but Lukaku has the potential to make them exciting.

    He is the one field player on the squad this season with truly elite talent. His youth and inexperience will surely lead to some ineffective outings, but there will be flashes of brilliance.

    His skill in combination with his massive frame gives him incredible potential. Think Didier Drogba, but bigger. Lukaku might be something extremely special, and the beginning of his rise to stardom may be this season.

Strengths

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    Central Midfield Play

    West Bromwich Albion has the luxury of multiple quality options in the center of the pitch. Youssuf Mulumbu is the standout of the group, but James Morison, Graham Dorrans and Paul Scharner are all solid options.

    Morrison is an an excellent all-around player. He passes and crosses well, while also contributing on defense. He can even be dangerous while going forward.

    Dorrans is the best offensive player of the group, making him and ideal complement to Mulumbu. He is versatile enough to play on the wing as well.

    These players complement each other extremely well, making the Baggies strong in the center.

     

    Balance

    It may all start with the center, but West Brom is solid all the way through the squad.

    The team may not wow any spectators in any particular area. Even the central midfielders are solid and smart, but ultimately unspectacular. However, they do not have any glaring weaknesses either.

    They are not the most dangerous attacking team, and they do not possess a dominant defense. But they are competent enough to capitalize on mistakes and disciplined enough to keep a clean sheet against a skillful attack.

    This is exactly why they finished 10th in the standings and 11th in goal differential. The Baggies are mediocre in the best possible sense of the word.

Weaknesses

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    Managerial Inexperience

    West Bromwich Albion does not have any big flashing warning signs, but there are some minor areas of concern. The most notable being that their manager has never had a permanent position for any side at any level.

    This is starkly different from Roy Hodgson, who has vast amounts of experience and is now leading England's national team.

    With any job, it takes a little while to do it right. Clarke will not be perfect from the start, and he will make a few costly mistakes.

    Still, Clarke has been an assistant at both Liverpool and Chelsea. The 48-year-old is one of the rising stars on the tree of successful Scottish managers.

    He has the talent to an an excellent boss and he will improve throughout the season. The worries will be over the speed at which his improvement occurs.

     

    Finishing

    Again, the Baggies are by no means the worst finishing team in the league, but they could earn a few more points this season by converting more scoring chances.

    West Brom ranked seventh in the Premier League with 14.3 shots per game and ranked eighth by putting 4.4 of those attempts on target, according to Whoscored.com.

    However, the team finished with just 45 goals, which was the 14th highest total in the league. This discrepancy suggests that the team is not finishing as many chances as it should be.

    The additions of Romelu Lukaku and Markus Rosenburg could help correct this problem, but every West Brom attacker should make it a point of emphasis to renew his focus in front of goal. 

Prediction for 2012-13

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    Wins: 13

    Draws: 9

    Losses: 16

    Points: 48

    Place: 10th

     

    Steve Clarke's inexperience will be offset by his talent as a manager and the talent he has brought to his new club.

    There will be a learning curve, but the negatives and the positives from this season will ultimately be equal. This will leave West Bromwich Albion right where it has been the last two seasons—in the middle of the table.

    The team has reliable and efficient players, but only Romelu Lukaku has the potential to be exciting and exceptional. Their consistency will help against the lesser teams, but their inability to excel in any single area will see them struggle against the top of the table.

    West Brom is simply a mid-table team through and through, and this season will confirm that once again.