Alan Pardew has taken over the Hawthorns hot seat vacated by Tony Pulis.
As ever, with the appointment of a new Head Coach there has been a reshuffle within the backroom staff too. John Carver has joined as Pardew’s assistant while Gary Megson, Ben Garner and Mark O’Connor have left the club. There will be other appointments during the coming weeks and they will mark the beginning of a new era at West Brom.
While the new coaching team is a very obvious sign of change and the Pardew era will bring a welcome change in playing styles, a far bigger adjustment is just around the corner.
Pardew has signed a contract until June 2020 only five of his current 22 man squad have contracts that expire after that date. The full details with the players age in brackets are as follows:
Contracts expire 2018
Gareth Barry (36), Boaz Myhill (35), James Morrison (31), Chris Brunt (32), Gareth McAuley (37), Grzegorz Krychowiak (27) Claudio Yacob (30), Ahmed Hegazy (26)
Contracts Expire 2019
Ben Foster (34), Jonny Evans (29), Salomón Rondón (28), James McClean (28)
Contracts Expire 2020
Nacer Chadli (28), Hal Robson-Kanu (28), Matt Phillips (26), Allan Nyom (29), Craig Dawson (27)
Contracts Expire 2021
Kieran Gibbs (28), Jay Rodríguez (28), Jake Livermore (28), Sam Field (19)
Contracts Expire 2022
Oliver Burke (20)
At the start of the season, many observers thought that this was the strongest squad that West Brom had assembled in the Premier League era. However ,given the squad’s age and length of the players’ contracts, it was only ever going to last a season. The fact that the squad has probably under performed only heightens the sense that change is imminent.
The most pressing decisions concern those players whose contracts expire next summer. Fortunately, the club has options to extend the contracts of Yacob Brunt and Morrison. It also has an option to make Ahmed Hegazy’s loan move permanent. Of those, only Hegazy is a regular starter at the moment.
It is was always doubtful that Krychowiak’s move would become permanent and his form to date would not justify the fees and wages that would be required to make it happen.
While Barry remains a first team regular, it has to be doubtful that he will continue next season nor will the veteran McAuley who is no longer an automatic starter.
It is quite conceivable that only Hegazy will be in the squad next season and the club will bid farewell to a generation of footballers who between them have made over a 1000 appearances for the Baggies.
If the prospect of replacing seven players wasn’t enough, there is a question mark over the future of Jonny Evans who will be entering the last year of his contract this summer.
Equally, Salomón Rondón and Nacer Chadli have been subject to bids with the latter close to joining Swansea on transfer deadline day. Both players were rumoured to be unhappy under Pulis so the maybe the change of Head Coach will secure their immediate futures.
The other major factor is that Pardew has inherited an aging squad with only Burke and Field being under 25 . Many of the remainder are either at the veteran stage of their career or will be by the time their current contract expires.The Albion’s academy can be counted on to supply a few additions but there does need to be a concerted effort to address the age profile of the squad.
Finally, there is the question of quality. Under Pulis, the side set up in a deep sitting block and defended in numbers. Pardew has already signaled his intent to play further forward and this does expose the technical limitations of some of the players in the current squad, particularly the defenders, who have less protection than they enjoyed under the old regime.
Overall, the squad on the face of it is quite strong and should be able to secure the club’s position in top flight, however, there are a number of issues that need to be addressed and although the window will open in January most of the changes will have to wait until the summer.