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The dawn of the Slaven Bilic era – Here’s what West Brom fans can expect ahead of the 2019/20 season

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West Brom 2019/20 preview: The Slaven Bilic era

After a lot of optimism regarding promotion back to the Premier League, West Bromwich Albion’s season took a wild and unfortunate turn after the club parted ways with Darren Moore. The Englishman was a clear fan favourite at the Hawthorns and his departure had its negative turn.

Caretaker manager James Shan kept them in the exact position that the Baggies were in before Moore’s departure but his inability to get them over the line through the playoffs meant that the club had to look for a fresh face.

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West Brom announced the appointment of Slaven Bilic on the 13th of June and this could well begin a new era at the club. The Baggies must aim to return to the top-flight as quickly as possible and Bilic’s arrival could make the difference from last season to the next.

Manager Profile

Bilic was relatively unknown as a manager at club level before he took the West Ham job four years ago. The Croatian wasn’t a new face by any means at Boleyn Park, having played for the Hammers back in 1996.

Bilic’s appointment back then was certainly a gamble, considering the little experience he had before but the gamble certainly paid off in his very first season. The Hammers finished seventh in the league which was a club record and Bilic was lauded by many for his fantastic achievement.

The Croatian’s life as the Hammers’ boss wasn’t meant to be, however. His second season in charge turned out to be a disastrous one. After beating the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham in his debut campaign, Bilic’s team slumped in the next, causing him to lose his job.

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Bilic’s only other role as a manager came with Saudi side Al-Ittihad earlier last year but his bad luck continued as he was axed just five months after his appointment. The former Besiktas boss managed just three wins out of a possible 15 but that should have no bearing for Baggies fans ahead of next season.

Tactics

In his hugely successful debut season with West Ham, Bilic’s biggest positive was how he got the Hammers to work as a team. West Ham were widely regarded as the side who would sit back and hit on the counter-attack with long balls but the Croatian was a breath of fresh air.

West Ham played some of the most beautiful styles of football which was rewarded with a deserved club record seventh-place finish in the Premier League.

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Bilic got the Hammers to defend as a team and attack as a team which was something almost unheard of for West Ham fans over the years. The Croatian used all his players to perfection while not being scared to tweak the formation at any moment.

The Hammers either played a 4-2-3-1 or a flat 4-3-3 with the latter being Bilic’s most successful formation. His side took every opportunity to attack but, at the same time, were hugely disciplined when without possession.

A midfield pivot of Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate complimented each other brilliantly while Bilic’s star man Dimitri Payet took control of the game from a number 10 role with the confidence of the midfield duo behind to protect him.

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Bilic was far more successful with his 4-3-3 formation where he played a front three of Payet, Andy Carroll and Michail Antonio. The two wingers were instructed to cut inside which opened up a ton of space for the two full-backs.

The two full-backs were the club’s most important players in Bilic’s system. A quick one-two with the inside forwards gave them enough space to exploit down the line while but the variation in the movement of the full-back and his respective winger was what troubled teams the most.

The two central defenders were given a risk-free role, where the instructions were clear – either pass it out of the back or kick the ball long to bring someone like Andy Carroll into play. 

The former Newcastle man’s ability to hold up the play was instrumental in Payet’s success, as it allowed him time and space to take control.

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Bilic’s discipline saw everyone in the team get behind the ball apart from Payet and Carroll. This allowed the Hammers to resist most of the pressure from the opposition before setting the two advanced players free to cause serious damage.

What can West Brom expect?

The Baggies will see a whole new style of football to what they have witnessed before with the likes of Shan, Moore and Tony Pulis. West Brom would look a lot bolder on the ball in the attack and most importantly, they will play as a team.

Bilic is capable of installing a sense of togetherness on the pitch, allowing the side to work relentlessly both with and without the ball.

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The full-backs will have a lot of work to do up and down the pitch and their combination play with their respective wide men will play a massive part in the attack. A variation of short passes, quick interlinking play combined with deadly crosses from either side would make them tough to stop.

A compact defensive line, with the midfielders in front of the central defenders dropping deep to provide additional cover, will make them a solid side and they can expect to concede a lot lesser.

All in all, Baggies fans can be really optimistic about what’s in front of them and Slaven Bilic’s appointment could potentially be the decision that could take them back to where they want to be – the Premier League.

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Watford signing this experienced 29-year-old centre-back looking to return to the PL would be a smart move

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Watford Opinion: Why the Hornets should go all out to sign Craig Dawson?

According to a report from The Sun, Watford will battle Burnley for the signing of West Brom defender Craig Dawson, who wants a return to the Premier League. They say that the Hornets want to sign a British defender and have identified Dawson as a summer transfer target.

West Brom will play in the Championship again next season after failing to clinch promotion to the Premier League via the playoffs. With no Premier League football for another campaign, Craig Dawson is gearing to leave the Hawthorns.

The 29-year-old, who has been on the books of West Brom since 2010, has one year left on his contract and the Baggies are expected to cash in to help new boss Slaven Bilic rebuild the squad. That being said, Watford should do everything to beat Burnley for Dawson’s signature.

Watford did manage an 11th place finish last season in the Premier League but things could have been much better for the club given the manner in which they started the 2018/19. Their abysmal form in the business end of the season, coupled with the trouncing at the hands of Manchester City in the FA Cup finals should have left Javi Gracia very disappointed.

The Hornets will again look to push for a place in the top-half and preferably compete for the Europa League. And for that to happen, Gracia needs to bring in quality players over the summer to beef up his squad. One area the Spanish tactician should definitely address is the defence.

Watford have released central defender Miguel Britos and Tommie Hoban, while Sebastian Prodl has hinted he’ll leave Vicarage Road this summer due to a lack of opportunities last season. Prodl’s potential departure will further lighten Gracia’s options in defence. That’s where the signing of Craig Dawson would make sense for the Hornets.

Dawson, who did well in the Premier League during his time with West Brom, is a versatile defender, adept at operating at right-back. A tall and strong central defender, the 29-year-old has solid top-flight experience and is capable enough of playing regularly for a mid-table Premier League side.

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Due to his experience, leadership qualities and versatility, Dawson could be such an inspired addition to the Watford ranks.

Verdict

Dawson has proven to be a consistent and reliable defender for West Brom over the last few years and there’s no reason why he cannot replicate that for Watford.

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West Brom’s midfield would receive a new dimension if they sign this vastly experienced 28-year-old – Agreed?

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West Brom Opinion: Why the Baggies should make a move for Tolgay Arslan?

According to Turkish outlet Hurriyet, newly-appointed West Brom manager Slaven Bilic wants to make Fenerbahce midfielder Tolgay Arslan his first summer signing at the Hawthorns.

Tolgay Arslan, 28, joined Fenerbahce during the winter transfer window after falling out with the Besiktas board last season. However, he quickly lost his place in the team after some poor performances.

Fenerbahce are under pressure to sell a number of their key players for financial reasons and the Turkish midfielder certainly could be one of them, despite arriving at the club only five months ago.

Slaven Bilic is keen to take advantage of the situation and reunite with Arslan at the Hawthorns—the midfielder who played under him when the Croatian manager was at the helm of Besiktas.

Bilic was named as West Brom’s new manager on Thursday and he will be tasked with guiding the club back to the Premier League after they lost to local rivals Aston Villa in the Championship play-off semi-final last month. He will have to build his team with the players that fit his style of play and must prioritise signing a couple of midfielders, with the likes of Gareth Barry and James Morrison released.

Rekeem Harper, who is out of contract at the end of this month, has been offered a new deal but is yet to put pen to paper. Therefore, signing someone like Tolgay Arslan would make sense for the Baggies.

Arslan previously worked under Bilic during their time at Besiktas, with the 28-year-old ending his four-year association with Besiktas earlier this year by joining Fenerbahce. The midfielder has plenty of experience in Turkey and Germany and has featured in both the Champions League and the Europa League in recent years.

The Turkey international is a midfield enforcer, who breaks the opposition’s play with his interception and tackling skills. He is a good distributor of the ball and likes to keep things simple in midfield, as his presence allows the team’s creative players to operate with more freedom.

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Bilic has worked with Arslan previously, so will know his strengths and weaknesses. Arslan has plenty of experience at the highest level and has got something about him which is why the West Brom manager wants him at the Hawthorns.

Verdict

Persuading the Turkish midfielder down to the Championship may be a big task, however, if Bilic can get him, Arslan could be a real coup for the Baggies.

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West Brom must pounce at the chance to sign this 20-year-old defender Slaven Bilic once handed his debut to

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West Brom Opinion: Why the Baggies should make a move for Reece Oxford?

According to a report from the Telegraph, West Brom are keen to sign West Ham defender Reece Oxford after his proposed move to Augsburg fell through.

The 20-year-old burst onto the scene in 2015 as West Ham’s youngest ever debutant, but spent last year on loan at Augsburg after failing to hold down a place in Manuel Pellegrini’s starting XI.

The report claims that Augsburg wanted to make Oxford’s move permanent for around €4.5million but the player is wanted to have a relegation clause inserted, after the Bundesliga club finished just four points above Bundesliga’s relegation play-off spot.

As per the Guardian, West Brom have appointed Slaven Bilic as their new manager. The former West Ham tactician has signed a two-year contract to become the permanent successor to Darren Moore, who was sacked in March.

The 50-year-old’s most recent venture, with Saudi Arabian club Al-Ittihad, lasted just five months and he was dismissed in February earlier this year.

However, Championship football is a different kettle of fish and Bilic has to be up for the task. He will need to rebuild the team to make them worthy enough to mount a promotion push next term.

West Brom will need to fully back their newly-appointed manager in the ongoing transfer window and help him find the right profile of players that can come in and make an immediate impact at the Hawthorns.

The Baggies had an awful defensive record last season, shipping in as many as 62 goals in the Championship. That clearly suggests where Bilic should prioritise focusing in this transfer window.

The likes of Ahmed Hegazi, Kyle Bartley and Craig Dawson blew hot and cold, while the expected departures of loanees Tosin Adarabioyo and Mason Holgate to their parent clubs Manchester City and Everton respectively should leave the club a bit thin at the back.

West Brom need quality and competition for places at the back and bringing in Reece Oxford would be the right step.

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Oxford’s career has not gone according to the plan and a move to West Brom would give him a chance to put it on track.

The 20-year-old is a young, talented and industrious player, who is equally adept at playing in central defence and defensive midfield. He is extremely composed on the ball, possesses good strength and aerial ability and is tenacious in the tackle.

Verdict

Slaven Bilic knows Oxford in and out, having handed the player his debut when he was just 16 at West Ham. The 20-year-old needs to revive his career and reuniting with his former manager at West Brom would do him a lot good next season.

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