ESPN FC fantasy picks expert Sir John Culea continues his Premier League season preview with a look at the teams, examining West Bromwich Albion's chances of rewarding fantasy managers and moving even higher than they finished last season. Go to the ESPN FC EPL fantasy page to join the game.
Last season: 14-7-17
Goals: 53 scored, 57 conceded
WBA was the surprise Premier League team last year. However, it is unlikely that all of what went right can be duplicated again for another top-ten finish. The biggest reason is the departure of forward Romelu Lukaku, who scored 17 goals while on loan from Chelsea.
The Baggies so far have made a few bargain transfer moves, one to bring in forward Nicolas Anelka (5.5) who returns to the PL with his sixth team. How much is left in the tank of the Frenchman is debatable (for some reason, he seems older than his 34 years). Another newcomer is veteran Diego Lugano who comes on a free transfer from PSG.
Manager Steve Clarke has told the Uruguayan defender he will have stiff competition from Gareth McAuley (5.8) and Jonas Olsson (5.6). McAuley was the ninth-best fantasy defender while Olsson is an underachieving fantasy player, given his imposing physicality. He only averaged a mediocre three points a game. Gabriel Tamas (4.4), Liam Ridgewell (5.2), Billy Jones (5.1), and Craig Dawson (4.3) are roster-stuffers. A loan deal also brought in defender Goran Popov (4.7).
Goalkeeping duties will be split between Ben Foster (5.7) and Boaz Myhill (4.2). Foster was the 11th-best fantasy GK and started 30 matches and had 105 saves. Myhill was in eight PL games and had 27 saves.
Defense and Lukaku contributed the most to WBA’s success. In midfield, there is not much to write home about or inspire fantasy managers. James Morrison (5.8) remains one of the lower profile, bargain fantasy performers (142 points, 17th ranking). Graham Dorrans (5.1), Youssuf Mulumbu (5.5) Chris Brunt (5.6) and Claudio Yacob (5.1) are all benign fantasy players.
In addition to Anelka, the forward position has the unstable and "what-was-he-thinking" Peter Odemwingie (5.0), who went on an ill-advised job search at QPR during the January transfer window. He managed five goals in 25 games and was not exactly a hometown favorite. Shane Long (5.1) and Markus Rosenberg (4.7) are the other forwards. Long had eight goals in 34 games, Rosenberg zero in 21 games.