The transfer window has now been open for several weeks and other than the signing of Jay Rodriguez from Southampton (a solid addition to the squad if he has overcome his injury problems and can retain his fitness) the Baggies have been their usual somnolent selves.
We had reason to hope that the acquisition of the club by Guochuan Lai would result in us taking a higher profile in the market compared to what we usually experienced during Jeremy Peace’s tenure.
This is not to criticise Peace, whose robust financial control of the club was necessary if we were to avoid the fate of other formerly illustrious clubs such as Leeds, Forest, Derby, Portsmouth – and dare one say, Wolves, but, Lai’s take-over heralded a new dawn with Baggies supporters eagerly expecting a change of approach in player recruitment, not least to enable the new owner to demonstrate his commitment and to make a ‘statement of intent’ to the watching world of the growing influence of China.
However, the hoped-for new dawn seems to have turned into Groundhog Day!
I’m not for one minute expecting us to match the extravagant spending power of the ‘top 6’ (likely to become the ‘top 7’ judging by Everton’s current activity) but many of our peer group in the Premier League, those clubs whose primary objective is to avoid relegation (i.e. the other 13 clubs in the division), seem to be recruiting players who would strengthen our squad and in all probability, command a starting place (e.g. Ake at Bournemouth, Iborra at Leicester, Abraham at Swansea, Taylor – whom we seemed to have been ‘pursuing’ for ages – at Burnley). Players of this calibre should be well within our compass – given the vast sums that are now available resulting from the BT / Sky television deals.
I recognise that we are fishing in the same pool as our immediate competitors……clubs such as Newcastle, Stoke, West Ham, Palace, Leicester, Swansea etc. Some of these clubs benefit from having a geographic location that may appear to be more attractive than the West Midlands, or a manager who has more ‘charisma’ then Tony Pulis…….but these factors can be off-set by presenting cogent arguments as to why joining the Baggies would benefit the player’s career and, probably more important in today’s agent-controlled marketplace, by offering attractive financial incentives that are attractive and competitive.
I also appreciate that to some extent there is a ‘domino effect’ to consider regarding player transfers….often, a club will seek to secure a new player before freeing-up an incumbent (for example the Nathan Ake / Marc Wilson situation at Bournemouth).
Notwithstanding this, the question has to be asked of our recruitment team…..are they actually doing enough to get signings over the line early in the window so that new recruits can benefit from the hard yards of a Pulis’ pre-season and to enable the entire squad to be fully integrated before the start of the season?
Sadly, the evidence to-date would appear to indicate that other clubs are fleeter of foot.