This summer transfer window for West Bromwich Albion was simply exquisite. The signings of Jay Rodriguez, Gareth Barry, Oliver Burke, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Kieran Gibbs along with the retention of skipper Jonny Evans, are all exactly what wass needed to take the Baggies to the next level.
However, one man who cannot be dropped from the bench in expense of these new players is former captain Chris Brunt.
Now in his tenth season with the club, the Northern Irishman has taken his share of unfair criticism but it’s surely time the fans realised that Brunt should be one of the first names on the team sheet, even in a time where the quality of players coming to The Hawthorns is getting better every window.
Brunt, after picking up a bad knee injury that kept him from going to Euro 2016, wasn’t expected to bounce back like he did but once he was fit last season, he immediately made his presence known.
From moments like his two beautifully delivered crosses to assist Salomon Rondon in getting his hat-trick against Swansea to his absolute rocket of a strike to seal a 2-0 win vs Sunderland, Brunt made sure his contribution to last season will be remembered.
When you look at Albion’s start to the current season, Brunt has been used at left-back and has shown his strengths. Ahmed Hegazi’s debut goal to pick up three points was, of course, due to a free kick whipped into the perfect area by the number 11.
Also, Hal Robson-Kanu’s well taken goal at Turf Moor came from a brilliantly hoofed ball by Brunt, which caused havoc for the Burnley defence.
He continued his great start to the season whilst on international duty for Northern Ireland, where he scored a peach of a free-kick against the Czech Republic after being involved in the build up to Jonny Evans’ header.
Competition is fierce in all areas of Albion’s line up but luckily, Brunt is one of the most versatile players you’ll find.
Kieran Gibbs, the new signing from Arsenal, must go straight into the defence at left-back. The fans have waited long enough for a proper left-back under Tony Pulis and given a run of games, the former Gunner could have an excellent impact on the team.
The fight for places on the wings is greater than ever with Jay Rodriguez, Matt Phillips, Oliver Burke, James McClean and Nacer Chadli all able and ready to play on either side. There’s great talent among those names but Brunt’s ability to deliver a ball is second to none which, for me, means he has to be in contention to play down the left flank.
Although there’s three fine defensive midfielders in Barry, Krychowiak and Jake Livermore in the Albion team at the moment, one of them should be sacrificed to accommodate Brunt’s creativity. This would allow him the freedom to express his creativity in the middle of the field and to be present so he can deliver set-pieces.
This is a more general problem having three midfielders all on the defensive side so if not Brunt, Morrison or Chadli has to come in to fill the gap between midfield and lone striker.
The team missed Brunt’s presence on the pitch as he played no part in Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Brighton and although there is a hot selection of talent to pick from now, he’s got to be brought back into the team.
I don’t care where on the pitch or how he’s fit in but Tony, if you read this, play Chris Brunt!