Last year we got it spectacularly wrong when selecting West Bromwich Albion to be relegated, we reckoned that with a new manager in place & a lack of high profile names that they would struggle but Steve Clarke had his men raring to go at the start of the season (26 points from the first 39 available) & the excellent Romelu Lukaku's goals helped steer them to an unlikely 8th place finish.
(West Brom could suffer without Lukaku's goals & Shane Long doesn't inspire us with confidence)
Of course the upside of West Brom doing so well last season is that their price for relegation this year is a rather large 9/1 (BetVictor) & there's reason to believe that may just be value this time around. Last year the Baggies were just 4/1 for relegation & we thought that was justified due to the apparent lack of goals in the side (Lukaku had not shown anywhere near the same level of form when appearing for a superior Chelsea side) & of course with him returning to London it seems fair to raise that question again. Shane Long scored 8 times in the league last year (3 times from February onwards) & at times looked shorn of confidence when in front of goal & the signing of Nicolas Anelka at the ripe old age of 34 doesn't inspire confidence. Matej Vydra could be making his way to the Midlands via a loan signing & he was certainly great for Watford in the Championship but this is a step up on the defences he faced there. Another mooted signing is Man City flop Scott Sinclair but he may be rusty after not playing much football & occasionally appears a little lightweight.
West Brom do look better at the back than their lacklustre attack & we're particularly fans of Ben Foster in goal, he seems a serious footballer who seems happier at a slightly smaller Premier League club like West Brom. Foster will be seeing a fine footballer step into the back four in the form of Uruguay captain Diego Lugano at centre back, he's on loan from French champions PSG, understandably not being able to get ahead of their Brazilian contingent of defenders. The worry with Lugano is that he turns 33 in November & hasn't played a lot of club football in the past two seasons & he may not have quite the motivation of other contracted players if they do start to struggle. Jonas Olsson was in fine form last year & has been a fine servant for the club, he'll surely be one of the first names on the team sheet again. West Brom are weaker elsewhere in defence though & it seemed some players stepped up on all known form last year including Liam Ridgewell, Billy Jones & Gareth McAuley - we can't see them having such good seasons again.
(Gareth McAuley & others overperformed last season & a reversion could see the Baggies in danger)
Talking of goals this year's top scorer market seems an interesting one with Robin van Persie deservedly topping the betting as he's been the winner for the past two seasons & already looks sharp judging by his two goals in the Community Shield. van Persie's odds of 7/2 are short enough though considering he has tended to pick up injuries through his career until these last two years, if you could guarantee he'd play 30+ games he'd be an automatic pick but we'd rather go for a player at bigger odds.
(Spurs' record signing Roberto Soldado is a top marksman & can strike at 20/1)
We've purposely left Gareth Bale off of that list as he looks fairly likely to head off to Madrid by the time the transfer window shuts & that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing for Soldado's chances as Spurs tended to fall into a habit of letting Bale rescue them last year but they'll have to impose themselves more without him. The Europa League could prove a distraction but we imagine that Spurs will field a shadow side for the league stage & Soldado should see plenty of Premier League games & seems to have the type of game to excel in England with a willingness to shoot on site that has certainly evaded Emmanuel Adebayor at times, a player who could end up providing a lot of chances if selected to play as a strike partner.
(van Persie is a deserving favourite in the Golden Boot market)
At odds of 20/1 Soldado looks a solid option away from van Persie when you consider Man City will rotate their strikers aroun, the dangerous Luis Suarez will be banned for the first part of the season & Wayne Rooney's status remains up in the air. Back him & take the each way terms of 1/4 odds for the first 4 places & he should be in contention all season.
West Bromwich Albion to be relegated at 9/1 (BetVictor)
Robert Soldado each way to win the Golden Boot at 20/1 (1/4 odds 1-2-3-4)