West Brom stumble toward finish after having Europe in sight
West Brom's season was very much in three parts, a poor beginning and end bookmarked by a four-month spell from November to February that ultimately resulted in a successful season with a top-half finish.
Rating out of 10: 8
West Brom's 2-1 win over Leicester at the King Power stadium was what really kickstarted their season. Matt Phillips had looked short on confidence following his summer move from Queens Park Rangers, but his assist and then winning goal in this fixture seemed to ignite something in him and he became a key component of West Brom's attacking style from that point.
It was Leicester's first home defeat for more than a season, having gone unbeaten at home from September 2015 in their title-winning season. It was undoubtedly a morale-boosting win and ultimately led to Tony Pulis discovering his most-effective team. Long-serving pair James Morrison and Chris Brunt were restored to the side, with Morrison scoring the first goal in the win. Pulis also settled on using Allan Nyom in the problem left-back position and the Cameroon international filled the void admirably, with his defensive performance up against the tricky Riyad Mahrez a precursor to a series of good displays in the position.
West Brom's end-of-season form put a real downer on what should have been a campaign that was celebrated. Having hit 40 points by February, the club had a real opportunity to push on and achieve a record-breaking Premier League season, with the chance to surpass its best-ever points total in the league, achieve the most wins and attempt to try and break into the top seven.
However, West Brom picked up only five points after breaking past the 40-point barrier and largely returned to the dull, ineffective, defensive style of football that was prevalent at the start of the season. This was ultimately highlighted by ending with a run of four consecutive 1-0 losses at home, which led to dissenting voices against Pulis returning. That had diminished somewhat during West Brom's good midseason run.
Ben Foster won both supporters' and players' player of the year, and it's difficult to argue with that. The goalkeeper played every game for West Brom and was in outstanding form. For a side that is so well-drilled defensively, Foster still had a fair bit of work to do and did it consistently well.
There hasn't been one highlight reel save, Foster just consistently makes good saves. His most impressive performance was probably in the 1-1 draw with Tottenham, where he denied Dele Alli on several occasions to keep West Brom in a game that was being totally dominated at the time by the opposition. Foster was also excellent in the return fixture at White Hart Lane, a game that West Brom lost 4-0 but it could have easily been double figures if not for the former England goalkeeper.
Club-record signing Nacer Chadli, although that might be because expectations were heightened following an electric spell in his opening few games. Chadli scored twice on his home debut against West Ham in a 4-0 win, also providing an assist, while he was the player who scored in the aforementioned 1-1 draw with Spurs at The Hawthorns.
Despite Chadli's good individual form, the team were still inconsistent and it was only after he picked up an injury, that subsequently led to the return of Morrison and Brunt to the starting XI, that Pulis' side really started to fire on all cylinders. After his return from injury, Pulis found it difficult to find a place in the lineup for Chadli. There were a few signs of a good understanding with Morrison, but these were few and far between after the turn of the year.
West Brom's poor end-of-season form highlighted a couple of areas where they are sorely lacking in options. The striking options obviously are the main concern, Salomon Rondon has been poor since the turn of the year, seemingly having had his head turned by a big money offer from China, while Hal Robson-Kanu works hard but is never going to be a regular, prolific goal scorer at this level.
Troy Deeney has been linked and he'd certainly suit Pulis' style of play, while a loan move for someone like Tammy Abraham from Chelsea also would be a good one, especially if he's anything like as successful as the last striker West Brom took on loan from Chelsea: Romelu Lukaku.
With Jonas Olsson departing midseason, West Brom have strangely looked short of options at the heart of the defence. John Terry has been strongly linked with a move to The Hawthorns to fill that void. With the deep defensive line used by Pulis, Terry would probably suit West Brom down to the ground, but it would be nice to see a younger option in there, particularly considering Terry is the same age as Gareth McAuley.
Matthew Evans is ESPN FC's West Brom blogger. You can follow him on Twitter @MattEvansWBA.