Sunday (July 2nd) saw West Brom’s first foray into the transfer market, signing Jay Rodriguez on a four-year contract from Southampton for a reported £12 million fee.
The switch has seen well wishes flooding in for Rodriguez on social media, with the overwhelming feeling from Saints fans that his time at the club was cruelly marred by injuries which hindered his development.
It is becoming increasingly uncommon for players to leave a club with such support (see Berahino joining Stoke from West Brom in January), and the heartfelt compliments for Rodriguez bode well.
The mutual respect between fans and players is something that is vital for players to both settle and thrive at a club. Rodriguez does come with a fairly extensive injury record which is cause for concern, however, the same was said for Jonny Evans and Darren Fletcher on their respective arrivals.
Evans has been and continues to be a vital part of the side and is more than likely to take the captains armband from the departed Fletcher. Fletcher’s injury problems need no introduction, however last season he broke the Premier League record for starting in consecutive games (86) at the age of 33 having been written off by many as damaged goods.
Albion have a good medical team and a proven record of both getting players fit (as they will be in their gruelling pre season trip to Austria starting today) and maintaining their fitness over the course of a season. If the medical team can keep Rodriguez fit, he has proven that he can do the rest. Looking at the other strikers in the squad it is clear to see what Rodriguez brings to the table.
His recent goal return is far from ideal but this can be attributed to his lack of consistent game time and therefore lack of momentum. He has a habit of being in the right place at the right time to poach goals, however he also has the technical ability to beat a man from deep and create chances for himself. He could be deployed off Rondon making second runs into the channels that the big Venezuelan creates, play out wide and cut inside or start games up top on his own.
Rondon has had the look of a man feeling pressure to score since Christmas, hopefully Rodriguez will take some of the goalscoring burden off his shoulders and allow him to play with more freedom and support in the final third. This should be a busy summer for the Baggies who have just 16 senior players at the club (excluding the imminently departing McManaman).
The departures of Fletcher and Olsson have stretched an already thin and aging squad which doesn’t have a recognised left back anywhere among the ranks. Yes there are talented youngsters coming through the academy, however manager Tony Pulis has shown consistently that he will not use them in close games, usually bringing them in ‘nothing to lose’ scenarios where the side is either two goals up or two goals down, or when he has no choice but to field them.
A conservative summer would bring in six more players – a left back, a centre half, two centre midfielders, a winger and another striker. The rumoured interest in recognised names like Iborra, Camacho, Gibbs and Badstuber will have Baggies fans excited, however if history has taught them one thing it is not to hold their breath. They must hope instead that the long fabled transfer war chest is ready to be deployed, if not it is going to be a long season for the Black Country club.
Written by George Bates.