Premier League season preview: West Brom

Steve Clarke will be hoping to build on his first season in charge. Photo: PA

Last season: 8th

Much like Newcastle the season before, the Baggies livened up the Premier League last season with a successful campaign that harvested an extremely impressive eighth finishing position. They came out the traps like a thoroughbred greyhound to shock the establishment, however a mid-season lull ruined their chances of Europa League football leading into a strong finish.

Rookie boss Steve Clarke learnt from the best in his days as assistant manager to Jose Mourinho et al, the wily Scot fashioning a team full of skill and pace that thrived on the counter. Sadly for Clarke, striking sensation Romelu Lukaku has returned to Chelsea but he can now call upon veteran forward Nicolas Anelka to help Shane Long, Peter Odemwingie and Markus Rosenberg up front.

Behind the forward line, Clarke will most likely employ Claudio Yacob and Youssouf Mulumbu in the middle to retain possession and harry the opposition with James Morrison, Graham Dorrans, Chris Brunt and Kemar Roofe battling it out for the remaining two midfield slots.

Meanwhile, the defence will be bolstered by the surprise signing of Diego Lugano from French giants Paris St-Germain. It is testament to West Brom's standing in Europe that they persuaded the classy Uruguayan, who has 85 caps to his name, to swap the French capital for the Midlands.

Jonas Olsson and Gareth McAuley look set to start the season at centre-back, though, with Lugano, Craig Dawson and Gabriel Tamas in reserve meaning Clarke should avoid racking up the 17 defeats that accompanied the 14 victories and seven draws last time out.

Steven Reid has been around the block like Anelka, his veteran savvy important at full-back with Goran Popov still yet to convince, nonetheless Liam Ridgewell and Billy Jones should start at left-back and right-back respectively.

England international Ben Foster is an imposing presence in goal and Clarke will be praying he stays fit behind an often nervy backline that holds the key towards consolidating a top-half finish this season.

Ins: Nicolas Anelka (unattached, free), Goran Popov (Dynamo Kiev, loan), Diego Lugano (PSG, free), Matej Vydra (Udinese, loan)

Outs: Marc-Antoine Fortune, Zoltan Gera, Gonzalo Jara, Romaine Sawyers, Jerome Thomas (All released)

Nicolas Anelka has impressed in pre-season. Credit: PA

Player to watch: Diego Lugano

It was a real coup for Clarke to bag the veteran defender and his touch of class should boost an inconsistent defence. With Anelka also offering a wise head in attack, Lugano can help steady the ship if West Brom fall behind or launch a trademark quick counter at will.

Something to prove: Graham Dorrans

The Scottish midfielder is capable of so much more than he has shown in a Baggies shirt since his switch from Livingston five years ago. A tricky midfielder with an eye for goal, he needs to keep a high tempo when given a chance to help take the load off his fellow midfielders.

Predicted finish: 8th

Title odds: 2000/1

Your view: Confident of finishing eighth again?