West Brom Players Who Need to Step Up with Romelu Lukaku Back at Chelsea
Providing the young Belgian international with his first real bite of the Premier League cherry, the 2012-13 season was a breakout period for Romelu Lukaku.
Farmed out to West Brom on loan for the campaign, Steve Clarke’s side benefitted from the temporary deal as much as the young striker, climbing to a top-half finish and Lukaku bagging an impressive 17 league goals.
However, with that reliable presence now absent from the Baggies' lineup and Lukaku back with his parent club, just who can be expected to make up those duties in his absence?
Having overachieved by some margin last term, the West Midlands outfit have a heavy cross to bear in the 2013-14 season and have two weeks of the transfer window left to strengthen if needs be.
However, there are other forward assets at the Hawthorns with reason to believe that this season could be just as fruitful, as long as they’re up to the challenge.
With Lukaku in the frame last season, Shane Long was forced to accommodate Steve Clarke’s loan signing for long stretches of last season.
Can Long finally reach Premier League double figures in scoring?
Shifted out wide or relegated to a substitute's role, the Republic of Ireland international did however manage to match his eight-goal tally from the 20111-12 Premier League campaign.
Now the longest-serving striker in the West Brom ranks, Long will be looked upon as the most synchronised asset and a player now entering what should be the prime of his career.
Upon his arrival from Reading two summers ago, a lot was expected of the nippy forward, expectations he perhaps hasn’t quite lived up to, but there’s still time to change that.
Long does well in not just getting into good scoring positions but also providing for his teammates and bringing the likes of James Morrison and Chris Brunt into the attack.
With Peter Odemwingie’s involvement at the Hawthorns still up for debate, it’s likely that Long will be Clarke’s go-to option up front, and a prolific season is needed from the 26-year-old.
Aged and weary, maybe, but Nicolas Anelka’s return to the English top flight will undoubtedly reap rewards for Steve Clarke after the Scotsman handed the former French international his Premier League lifeline.
Since arriving at the Hawthorns, Anelka has had a fairly prolific preseason and almost represents the exact opposite to Lukaku in terms of a team presence.
Whereas Lukaku was young and still finding himself as a player, Anelka is experienced and will add something to the Baggies’ dressing room, more due to his prestige than actual voice.
When it comes to on-the-pitch matters, though, the Frenchman’s modus operandi is fairly similar. Now lacking the speed of his former self, Anelka’s priorities will lie in link-up play mostly, although a player such as him never loses that scoring touch.
Instead of the star qualities Lukaku so evidently has, it’s clear that West Brom will be looking for a much more collaborative feel to their attack this year, the talent being spread across several promising players.
Having enjoyed a prolific time on loan at Watford last season, Udinese’s Matej Vydra now takes things up a gear after BBC Sport announced the forward would be heading to the West Midlands, once more on loan.
The Serie A club are obviously keen to hang on to the promising youngster in the long run, and for good reason too, considering his 20 goals and nine assists in just 27 Championship starts last term.
However, the first tier is that extra step up in terms of quality, and Vydra may not receive the same prominence in Clarke’s first team as Lukaku did.
Matej Vydra playing just off Nicolas Anelka? Looking forward to having a look at West Brom already.— Andy Brassell (@andybrassell) August 13, 2013
That’s not to say the Czech attacker can’t make the step up, but merely that it will take more for the youngster to make that initial impression.
As a result of Long, Anelka and Odemwingie’s presence, it’s also likely that Vydra will be shifted about and pushed out wide on occasion as opposed to being given his natural striking position on a consistent basis.
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