Selection dilemmas for Steve Clarke

Posted by Matthew Evans

Carl Court/AFP/Getty ImagesSteve Clarke's selections in the Premier League's final weeks could offer a glimpse at who will be back next season at West Brom.

With seven games left of the season, it is fair to say that West Bromwich Albion and Steve Clarke have far exceeded expectations. At the start of the season, Albion were tipped by many experts to be in a relegation battle. As it is, they sit comfortably in eighth with 44 points, safe from relegation.

In terms of aims for the rest of the season, there is not a lot The Baggies can aim for. They will be looking to overtake their Premier League record of 47 points and stay in eighth place or perhaps push for seventh, which would be their highest finish in Premier League history. However, there is no real possibility of Albion qualifying Europe, which at one stage looked a real possibility.

With that in mind, Clarke is faced with a few selection dilemmas ahead of the summer transfer window and preparing for next season. The main one is at the forward positions. Romelu Lukaku has been absolutely superb for The Baggies this season but West Brom don’t know whether he will be at the club next season because of how impressive he has been.

For that reason, would it be more beneficial for West Brom to give some gametime to someone like Markus Rosenberg? Clarke has readily admitted that he hasn't given Rosenberg enough time on the pitch this season, mainly due to the form of Lukaku and Shane Long, either as a duo or as the lone striker. Surely now is the chance for Rosenberg to be given a run of games in the side? How will Clarke ever know if the Swedish international is good enough for next season if he doesn't get a chance this season?

Some reports have suggested that Lukaku is highly unlikely to be at the club next season; Marc Antoine Fortune's contract is up at the end of the season and there is of course the Peter Odemwingie situation.

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Thus it is feasible that Albion could well only have Long and Rosenberg from this season's striking ranks. Rosenberg needs to be given gametime so West Brom know whether he has the ability to take up a role as a first choice forward next season or if he will remain merely a squad player. While Lukaku will benefit West Brom in the short-term, the club may well need to look longer-term with regards to their choices. Lukaku doesn't need to be dropped completely, but giving Rosenberg and Long a couple of games together will not harm anyone.

Another area where Albion are being linked with improvements is at right back, while question marks remain over the future of Steven Reid. Reid needs to play a certain amount of games to automatically renew his contract for next season, although West Brom may choose to offer him a new contract anyway. Do West Brom put Reid back into the first team or persist with Billy Jones who has been more impressive over the past few weeks? If Jones continues this upturn in form, it may mean West Brom won't have to strengthen in that area. It is another dilemma for Clarke, who again must choose between a short term and a long term option.

The final area where Clarke faces a serious dilemma is one man I mentioned earlier, Odemwingie. It is nearly impossible to write about West Brom at the moment without mentioning the Nigerian. Despite his Twitter antics and the QPR fiasco, Odemwingie has impressed when coming off the bench. But out of any member of Albion’s squad, he is the one most likely not to be there next season. As Odemwingie is only coming off the bench, is there really much point in him being selected?

Surely the Baggies would be better off giving a youngster that spot on the bench; someone like young Izzy Brown or Saido Berainho once he returns from injury. Getting 10 to 15 minutes off the bench would benefit players like these two much more than Odemwingie. It is Arsenal up next for West Brom and Clarke's selections should give an insight into how he views certain players.

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