In the summer transfer window, Albion recruited four players to improve their defensive options. Gareth McAuley, Billy Jones and Martin Fulop all arrived on free transfers whilst Ben Foster arrived on loan. However, three games into the season and it seems to be that only one of these players is going to be a first choice.
And following the activity on dead-line day, it seems that instead of strengthening the weakest area of the side, Albion have in fact weakened it. The deals may have been lost in amongst the amateur dramatics performed by Jim White and the rest of the Sky Sports News team, but out of the door went Pablo Ibanez and Mareck Cech. Now neither of these two were exactly first team players, but they were certainly capable back-up.
But with those two now departed, it seems that Albion’s defence is weakened.
The back-up for Nicky Shorey is Joe Mattock, who Albion farmed out on loan last year to Sheffield United and was out-played by Cech in the championship, Mattock has never started a premiership game, and Shorey has not exactly started the season in electric form. And in the centre of defence, we are now reliant on another two players who have never played in the Premiership, McAuley and Dawson, now that Ibanez has left.
His case is a curious one. Brought in on a free transfer last summer, Ibanez's signing caused great excitement such was his pedigree. A former Spanish international with 25 caps, and someone who was on the verge of joining Real Madrid until the potential president who agreed the deal lost in the election for the presidency of Madrid. He then suffered a loss of form and severe disdain from the fans of Atletico Madrid, understandable really. And to most fans, he didn't seem to do a lot wrong at Albion in fact he seemed to be the best centre half, apart from Jonas Olsson, at the club. Yet both Roy Hodgson and his predecessor Roberto Di Matteo were less than keen on him, despite him seemingly being the best option to partner Olsson.
We are now left severely depleted at the back, with the inconsistent Gabriel Tamas the first-choice centre half alongside Olsson, despite Tamas being dropped by Hodgson at the start of his reign in favour of Abou Meite who had previously been left to play in the reserves, not exactly a vote of confidence. And this begs the question why Albion left it until so late on deadline day to look at potential defensive additions for the first team.
The two names that cropped up on Albion's hit-list were Chris Baird and Nedum Onuoha. Albion wanted both men on loan, but Fulham blocked a move for Baird and Onuoha was holding out for a move to Everton. Both of these were beyond Albion's control, but surely we should have been looking at these players sooner, or heaven forbid, willing to give Fulham what they wanted for Baird and sign him up. Baird is going into the last year of his contract, so realistically Fulham cannot charge a lot for his services.
One player I thought Albion could have taken a risk on was Scott Dann of Birmingham, but after seeing the fee paid I can understand why Albion baulked at the price. His team-mate Liam Ridgewell was another potential option, but again Albion were out-priced. This has to lead to questioning of Albion's transfer policy. If they were being out-priced for players in the domestic market, why did Albion not continue the successful strategy employed last year of signing players just as good from abroad, at probably half the cost. I feel this is the influence of Hodgson, and I hope that due to him being a big-name manager he has been allowed to work too much outside of a very successful policy for a club like Albion.
I did say I understood why Albion baulked at the price of Scott Dann, but I still feel that was definitely a risk worth taking. As summed up by the excellent Swiss Ramble when concluding this piece about West Brom's finances, "Jeremy Peace encapsulated his ethos, when he stated, “The problem is ambition, a terrible word which means spending money. It can wreck a club.” You can see where he's coming from, but this might be the moment to up the ante. Although spending money is clearly no guarantee of success, a gentle loosening of the purse strings might make a big difference to West Brom's prospects. There's no need to go mad, but it should not be beyond the wit of a savvy board like Albion's to find a happy medium."
This window was Albion's opportunity, only a couple of players were needed to really accelerate the progress of the club, yet they came out of it making a profit. Great for finances, worrying for the fans.
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