West Brom and Bilic can triumph if they mould a new identity

For West Bromwich Albion, now represents a new dawn. There is a fresh sense of optimism ahead of a Championship season in which they will be hoping to achieve promotion.

Yet, under the beady eyes of Slaven Bilic, they may arguably have a better chance than they did last term. After all, he spoke a good game in his first press conference since arriving at the club this week.

What attracted the Croatian to the Hawthorns was the thrill of working in the Championship, a league he is yet to experience.

The 50-year-old has managed his national team at major tournaments and also taken West Ham to their highest ever points tally in the Premier League.

However, it appears as though he’s now relishing the opportunity to get stuck into England’s second tier as he takes a step down.

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The Championship is arguably one of the hardest to get out of. It’s one of the most competitive leagues in the world and finishing at the top of the tree is no easy task.

That’s why it was rather remarkable that both Norwich and Sheffield United were able to achieve promotion in 2018/19.

The pair of them will compete in the top-flight next season but West Brom, on the other hand, will not.

To put things into context, Albion’s squad came to a value of £86.81m last term per Transfermarkt. In comparison, Sheffield United’s was a tiny £29.66m whilst Norwich’s was £56.07m.

On that evidence, the fact that the former didn’t go up is near baffling.

There were many reasons to explain why West Brom didn’t. Not replacing Harvey Barnes in January and then not employing a new permanent manager after sacking Darren Moore are two of the most obvious.

But on the face of it, the Baggies simply weren’t good enough. Their inability to get over the line against Aston Villa despite dominating their play-off semi-final second leg told the story.

So, after finally appointing a new boss after three arduous months of searching, West Brom need a new direction. With the club looking to cut back this summer, they’ll need to take a leaf out of the two sides who finished first and second in 2018/19.

The Blades and the Canaries showed last season that you don’t need players on huge wages to succeed. Instead, you need a philosophy and a vision. This is the one key change West Brom must now put into action.

Whether Bilic can instil that is difficult to assess. At West Ham he was incredibly impressive in his first term but things rather hit the rails afterwards.

The Croat is a steely character and it may well be someone like him who can guide West Brom back to the Premier League. The fact he has more experience than Moore and Shan will undoubtedly help.

Embedded within Chris Wilder’s side, though, is a distinct way of playing. Sheffield United were brave in their attacking approach whilst their never say die attitude was easy to admire.

The progressive Daniel Farke, who has now been at Norwich for two years, has shown similar strides and he’s implemented his vision to perfection. Under the German, they look a far more cultured outfit than they did when bouncing between the first and second tiers in recent years.

After Bilic’s unveiling, Dowling told the press: “We had seven loan players last season that need to be replaced. We will have a kitty to spend, if we lose one or two, we’ll have more to. With Slaven here, we don’t have to spend it all. We want to unearth gems again.”

And that is indicative of the rebuild that must take place at West Brom this summer. Bilic looks as though he’ll head up the recruitment but initiating his style and his way of playing will also be hugely important.

At West Ham, there wasn’t a great sense that he was able to do that. Money was spent here and there on the likes of Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini but there wasn’t a recognisable direction.

He added greater attacking players, but the core of the team were those he inherited.

Albion showed last season that they struggled to compete even with their players on high wages so it’ll be intriguing to see whether a new approach can take them further.

The fans in the video below had some very strong words for Michel Platini who was detained over alleged corruption this week…

Taking a look at how Sheffield United and Norwich went about things last season must be used as guidance for the Baggies.

That doesn’t just count for their transfer activity, but it should also be a focus in terms of the way they approach matters on the pitch.

Their problems from last season aren’t going to disappear overnight, but by instilling a new way of doing things, it’ll certainly help.

This is a chance for everyone at the club to undo the wrongs of the past year. For the sake of West Brom’s long term future, can they afford another term in the Championship after this? Arguably not.

But that appears to be why they’ve appointed a man as passionate about the game as Bilic. If he can turn the tide next season he will have done a fantastic job.

However, only time will tell whether he can engulf the club with his own philosophy. Based on his time at West Ham, you have to doubt whether he’ll be able to improve things in that regard.

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