It seems like a lifetime ago now but it was just a couple of months ago that West Brom and Brentford were going toe-to-toe for that second automatic promotion berth. How have the opening couple of games of the Premier League season been for Slaven Bilic’s side?
I think it’s been quite a steep learning curve. The squad is very different to the one that came down into the Championship a couple of years ago and there isn’t that bunch of experienced players they boasted all that time they were in the Premier League. They had the likes of Chris Brunt, James Morrison, Jonas Olsson and Darren Fletcher and now there are a group of players who made their top flight debuts against Leicester. They are a team who are having to learn quite quickly on the job but they do have a sprinkling of quality and we saw that against Everton with the two players everyone was most excited to see - Grady Diangana and Matheus Pereira – who have, so far, lived up to expectations.
Despite the start perhaps not going the way Baggies fans might have hoped, their business has been eye-catching, to say the least. What have you made of their transfer window so far?
We all knew Pereira was coming back, while the signing of Callum Robinson was a tidy bit of business because Oliver Burke didn’t have any future at the club so they managed to get a swap deal done with Sheffield United to get him off the books. Elsewhere, they’ve added Cedric Kipre and David Button as additions that will boost numbers and, certainly in Kipre – who was signed from Wigan for less than £1 million - I think there’s a player who could be integrated in for the long-term. Of course, Diangana is the blockbuster signing of the summer and I don’t think anything will eclipse that. When they knew West Ham were selling, they did the business quite quickly and now he looks like someone who is at home in the Premier League, so I think that’s Albion’s gain and West Ham’s loss.
In the last week or so, they’ve added Branislav Ivanovic who can hopefully add the experience and leadership in the backline that has been lacking in the last couple of games. Conor Gallagher is quite an exciting signing as well. He’s an extra pair of legs in midfield and someone who can really provide some energy, so I’m looking forward to seeing him play. Other than that, they desperately need a centre forward between now and the window closing.
The comfortable 3-0 win over Harrogate in the second round of the Carabao Cup last week to set up this tie, but with the rigours of this season’s schedule, is it fair to say the competition is low on the list of priorities?
Certainly, judging by the last round. Slaven Bilic made 10 changes to his starting XI and he made nine last year in the first round when they were beaten by Millwall, so that would suggest his priorities lie elsewhere. They’ve got Chelsea on Saturday, which is another very difficult game on paper, so I can imagine there’ll be a lot of players who’ll get a breather after playing on Saturday. I would suggest Gallagher might get a run out, only because he couldn’t play at the weekend and he also can’t play against his parent club. I would expect something similar to the last round, in terms of team selection.
Of course, the majority of the West Brom squad will be familiar to Brentford fans, but who would you say is likely to be the main source of danger on Tuesday?
Against Harrogate, albeit against much lesser opposition, Kyle Edwards caught the eye and played really, really well. He was a real threat for large periods of the game, got the man of the match and Brentford fans will remember him for scoring the winner at Griffin Park a couple of seasons ago. We’re still to know if Charlie Austin or Kamil Grosicki are going to play because they were both left out of the matchday squad altogether on Saturday after not doing very well against Harrogate. If Grosicki plays, his pace is a huge attribute and, other than that, I think Hal Robson-Kanu will play and, as someone who reached double figures in the Championship last season, he does have an eye for goal.
How is Bilic likely to set up his side at The Hawthorns?
He’s played three at the back in the Premier League games, which he never did at all in the Championship last season. In the Carabao Cup game last week he played a 4-4-2, basically because the selection dictated that, with Austin and Robson-Kanu up front, Edwards and Grosicki on the wings and Field and Harper in the middle. Depending on who he’s got available, he might change that to a 4-3-3, but that’s one we’ll have to find out on the day.
What’s your score prediction for this one?
I’ll say West Brom but without knowing what sort of team Bilic is going to name, it’s hard to say. I can see both teams scoring, at the very least, and I’ll go for a 2-1 West Brom win.
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