West Brom must catch up quickly but it’s not all doom and gloom for Slaven Bilic
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Slaven Bilic wants to play football on the front foot.
For his players to believe in themselves. And to attack the Premier League.
Unfortunately, it's been an approach that, if it is to be successful, demands that any newly-promoted club can stand toe-to-toe with anyone and trade punches.
And that's not yet possible.
With such a short space of time between the drama of the Baggies' promotion and the start of the new campaign it was always going to be a tough ask for that to happen.
The reasons for that are many and varied.
It's not been an easy start to the season thus far for the Baggies
(Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
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Chief among them is the fact that several vital constituents of their successful side were borrowed.
Grady Diangana, Matheus Pereira, Filip Krovinovic and Callum Robinson all belonged to others.
Had those loans been called in for good, it would have left a club that would have been struggling to stay afloat among the elite even further away from the lifeboat.
As it was, those signings were eventually realised.
Diangana was the one which caused such upset that it moved West Ham's Mark Noble to complain publicly that the precocious talent be recalled to the Olympic Stadium.
And, speaking financially, in terms of assets, there is little doubt that tying those three to the navy blue and white flagpole was a major success.
Diangana starred on loan and Albion splashed the cash to make his move permanent
(Image: Getty Images)
It was similar to the position Aston Villa found themselves in 12 months previously. Their answer was to throw money at the problem.
Over £100m later, backed by owners whose wealth is measured in the billions, Dean Smith's side still only stayed up on the final day of the season.
And Villa had the 'Get out of jail' card in the shape of Jack Grealish to call upon.
Over at the Hawthorns, meanwhile, there is no glorious benefactor in the boardroom. There is no Grealish.
Caution was never going to be thrown to the wind in B71.
The company credit card was pushed to the max. The breakdown of Karlan Grant's deal screamed as much. A £15m fee spread over the length of a huge six-year deal.
New striker Grant arrived from Huddersfield
(Image: GLYN KIRK/POOL/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
Bilic may have given vent to his frustrations in an interview back in Croatia – 'we don't have much money yet, I expected we would have more' – but it's clear that there was plenty of financial engineering taking place to ensure the books balanced.
That may well have explained why Ahmed Hegazi was sacrficed. Bilic was upset. Of course he was.
What he had been told remains a matter for the Baggies' chief and sporting director Luke Dowling.
But Dowling holds the purse-strings and is under pressure himself to deliver a competitive squad within budget.
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If, as it appears, the decision was made to strengthen at one end of the pitch to make good deficiencies at the other, then that's sensible and pragmatic.
How the internal politics are squared between head coach and sporting director is a matter for them.
The net result is that although Bilic wants to attack this league head on and throw every weapon in his arsenal at the matter-in-hand, he is going to have to temper his enthusiasm.
It's pointless being out of the game in the top-flight by half-time. The gung-ho has to be replaced by pragmatism.
And if that means the likes of Diangana and Pereira are used as impact substitutes to swing a game in the final quarter, so be it.
Can Bilic temper his expectations?
(Image: Pool via REUTERS)
It appeared that West Brom did find a way to be competitive in their last outing against Spurs.
Unlucky to come away with anything, Bilic's side deserved a share of the spoils, with the players scotching the notion that they were anything but 100 per cent behind their leader.
It rendered talk of change in the manager's chair during the final international break redundant.
The outlook is not totally bleak, therefore. Despite being without a victory in their opening games, West Brom are not cut adrift.
They needed to play catch-up at rare clip during the summer and a string of draws show they can be competitive.
Ultimately, the speed with which they ascend that steep learning curve will ultimately decide their fate.
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