Saturday, 12 August 2017

Has some of the threat from WBA been removed this summer?

Tony Pulis has seen his WBA lose some significant players this summer in the departures of Darren Flecther and Craig Gardener, but he'll have high hopes of making a top 10 finish. Much of the optimism comes with the new signing, Jay Rodriguez from Southampton for £15m but the Baggies have been fairly quite in the transfer window this summer.

Will AFCB do better on entering the gates at the Hawthorns this season? 
Rodriguez found himself being squeezed a little at Southampton with the strong squad of strikers at the club and he'll need to make his name quickly at West Brom. Rodriguez was hampered by injuries last season but did score twice against the Cherries  in Southampton's 1-3 win at Dean Court.  That day Aké and Steve Cook were the central defenders and they'll need to cope with Rodrigues better this time around.

The other big threat is likely to come from Salomón Rondón who had a purple patch in the middle of last season when he could do nothing wrong, and yet by the end of the season the goal really dried up for him and he ended up on eight league goals. When Bournemouth visited the Hawthorns in 2016, Rondón was sent off following a head butt on Dan Gosling, but his attitude is usually pretty good and he will put himself about.

Injuries could weaken WBA a little. In their end of July match against Bristol Rovers, Chris Brunt picked up a calf strain while James McClean had a knee injury. Gareth McAuley also has a thigh injury and James Morrison is out with a knee injury. Meanwhile, Chris Brunt, Johnny Evans and Nacer Chadli did not go in the Spanish trip to the Deportivo de La Couruña as they were nursing knocks. WBA will be boosted though by Tony Pulis signing an contract extension until 2019.

While Tony Pulis has added the Egyptian Ahmed Heghazi on loan in defence, there is not much for the Baggies to get excited about yet and Pulis' attempts to bring in further defenders have not materialised yet. Without the shielding power of Fletcher they could also find their back line more exposed and AFCB will look to find the gaps in front of the centre backs and down the flanks to get the West Brom players turning.

With Asmir Begovic perhaps now favourite to start in goal for the Cherries, set-pieces may not be quite such a threat for WBA as they have been on previous occasions. But AFCB have to do the work of protecting their goal extremely well when they then come to places like the Hawthorns.

In the light of the pre-season performances this is my probable AFCB team to play WBA. It could be hard news for Marc Pugh and Connor Mahoney.

AFCB team: 4-4-1-1 Begovic (GK), Francis (RD), S Cook (CD), Aké (CD), Daniels (LD), Ibe (RM), Arter (CM), Surman (CM), Gradel (LM), King (FW), Afobe (FW)

Subs: Boruc (GK), A Smith (RD), Mings (CD), L Cook, (CM), Fraser (LM/RM), Mousset (FW), Defoe (FW)

In other news, AFCB's home match with Chelsea has been moved to a 5.30 kick off on Sat 28 Oct and will be shown on BT Sport.

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