Picking West Bromwich Albion's key man, and predicting their final league position

West Brom

With another new manager at the helm in Alan Irvine, West Brom's bid to improve upon last season's relegation-threatened campaign has seen them active in the transfer market.

West Brom

Last season: 17th

Title odds: 4,000/1

Players in: Chris Baird (Burnley, free), Jason Davidson (Heracles, undisclosed), Cristian Gamboa (Rosenborg, undisclosed), Craig Gardner (Sunderland, free), Brown Ideye (Dynamo Kiev, £10m), Joleon Lescott (Manchester City, free), Sebastien Pocognoli (Hannover, £1.5m), Andre Wisdom (Liverpool, loan)

Players out: Morgan Amalfitano (Marseille, loan return), Thievy Bifouma (Espanyol, loan return), Zoltan Gera (Ferencvaros, free), Billy Jones (Sunderland, free) Diego Lugano (released), Goran Popov (Dynamo Kiev, loan return), Steven Reid (Burnley, free), Liam Ridgewell (Portland Timbers, free), Scott Sinclair (Manchester City, loan return), George Thorne (Derby, free), Matej Vydra (Udinese, loan return)

Steve Clarke led West Brom to a club-record eight-place finish in 2012-13, but his surprise sacking in December saw replacement Pepe Mel battle away at the bottom of the table for the rest of 2013-14.

They secured survival in the penultimate week of the season but there’s now another new manager at the helm, with the Spainard’s departure seeing former Preston North End boss Alan Irvine take the reins.

It was a surprise appointment, with many fans none too happy at the time, but the recent business done in the transfer market has been somewhat encouraging ahead of a fifth consecutive top-flight campaign for the Baggies.

Reasons to be positive

With Youssuf Mulumbu, Stephane Sessegnon, James Morrison, Claudio Yacob, Graham Dorrans, Chris Brunt and new arrival Craig Gardner, Irvine has a deep midfield of solid contributors, all having proven themselves in the Premier League.

It’s perhaps the bolstered defence though which stands out the most, with Andre Wisdom, Sebastien Pocognoli, Jason Davidson, Joleon Lescott, Chris Baird and Cristian Gamboa all arriving this summer to join vice-captain Jonas Olsson at the back.

West Brom were the league’s draw specialists last season, with 15 of their 38 matches finishing on level terms, but if striker Brown Ideye can live up to his £10 million price tag then a few of those stalemates could well be converted into three points.

Trouble on the horizon?

Ideye’s record price tag obviously comes with high expectations for a player entirely unproven in England, and the club hierarchy have put a lot of faith in the Nigerian by charging him with the weight of the goal-scoring burden.

The Baggies still remain light up front too, their only other two options at present being Saido Berahino and Victor Anichebe, so one would hope they’ll be more arrivals before the end of the transfer window.

Key man: Stephane Sessegnon

Arriving at the Hawthorns for a then-club record £5.5 million fee last September, Sessegnon stands out as the club’s leading creative force, with the versatility to fit in any number of positions in the midfield or even up front.

Returning to form at the end of the 2013-14 campaign, following a midseason slump, the Benin international is set to reprise his role as he main playmaker behind a lone front man, where fans will hope he can push on to enjoy some more consistency under Irvine.

One to watch: Said Berahino

Berahino burst onto the scene early last season, netting a hat-trick in the League Cup against Newport County, before scoring the game-winning goal in the 2-1 win against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

However, after being given a new long-term contract in December, the 21-year-old seemed to lose his way in the second-half, with supporters anxious to see whether he can rediscover that previous exciting form when the new campaign kicks off.

Predicted finish: 15th

Having to conduct such a drastic overhaul of the squad always comes with a bit of risk, but there have certainly been some promising moves, with the possibility of more additions to come.

Irvine is in a tough situation if he doesn’t get off to a fast start, given the reaction to his hiring, but the club will hopefully have learnt from last season’s chopping and changing and afford him enough time to let the new faces bed in.

West Brom ultimately look like they have enough quality to survive in the division, though there may be one or two nervy spells along the way.

Where will West Brom finish this season?

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