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Sunday, 07 July 2013

West Brom: Bold Baggies bid for Europe with Anelka

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The summer transfer window is wide open and the most eye-catching deal of the month so far has to be West Brom's acquisition of former Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka.

The former French international may be in his twilight years but he is a man on a mission, namely to get Steve Clarke and the Baggies into Europe and then retire.

But is that goal achievable for the boys from the Hawthorns?

West Brom were one of the Premier League's surprise packages last season. Under the helm of rookie manager Steve Clarke, the Baggies were among the favourites to go down. However, an opening day 3-0 demolition of Liverpool, followed by a draw at Spurs and a 2-0 victory over Everton quickly dispersed that talk. It turned out to be no flash in the pan either as Clarke led his men into the top half of the table.

On-loan striker Romelu Lukaku was their main supply of goals, scoring 17 goals - nine more than his fellow frontman Shane Long. Unfortunately the Belgian youngster looks to be on his way back to Stamford Bridge and West Brom are desperate to fill that void. Anelka could well be that man, although Clarke insists more firepower will be arriving over the coming weeks.

The Frenchman is an experienced pro having made a name for himself at Arsenal before being snapped up by Real Madrid. During the course of his career he has played in five different countries, but there's always one place where he always returns to, the Premier League. Anelka's trophy cabinet includes numerous title-winning medals and the Champions League trophy, along with many individual honours. He scores on average one every three games but with James Morrison pulling the strings in midfield, Anelka will be presented with plenty of goalscoring opportunities.

Anelka may not have the blistering pace that he possessed as a youngster, but he still knows where the goals are. The Frenchman has also looked after his body well and there are still plenty more miles left in his tank. West Brom have definitely made their intentions for the new campaign known with Anelka's arrival.

However, the Baggies do have an awfully long way to go in order to clinch a place in Europe. Last season they finished 14 points behind Europa League-bound Everton, who finished sixth, and the competition in the Premier League is only going to be even more intense this time round. Rivals Aston Villa will not be as poor as they were last season, Swansea City and Liverpool are already splashing the cash and many others are yet to enter the fray. Steve Clarke may also feel the full force of the second season syndrome, as rivals work out his tactics and counteract them.

But of course the league isn't the only route into Europe, the Baggies could also win either the League Cup or FA Cup. It has been a long time since their name adorned one of the major trophies - 1968 to be precise, when West Brom were FA Cup winners. Two years earlier they claimed the League Cup. Teams like Swansea City, Birmingham City and Portsmouth have all won these competitions over the past five years and, with the luck of a draw, there's no reason whatsoever why West Brom could not add their name to that list.

Exciting times are instore for the Midlands' top team.

Calling all West Brom fans: How excited are you about the arrival of Nicolas Anelka? What do you think he will bring to the team? Do you see any reason why West Brom cannot be competition for honours this campaign? What other areas of the pitch do you feel need strengthening this window? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.

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Antony Melvin



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