Championship 2021/22 preview: Baggies have enough talent to bounce back at the first attempt

Andy Schooler previews the 2021/22 Championship title race from a betting perspective with West Brom fancied to make a quick return to the top flight.

The favourites have won the Championship in each of the last two seasons and that position heading into 2021/22 is held by Fulham.

The Cottagers have shown their intent by splashing out £12million to sign Harry Wilson from Liverpool, part of a major squad overhaul.

Analysis by Experimental361 shows Fulham have the highest player 'churn' of any of the 24 clubs who will compete in the division this season.

That's a potential problem for new boss Marco Silva, who must now gel a new-look team together and quickly.

The Portuguese has taken the reins from Scott Parker, whose departure for Bournemouth isn't exactly a ringing endorsement for Fulham's chances of bouncing straight back to the Premier League.

Fulham hope Silva is the man to lead them back to the Promised Land but his record in England is hardly sparkling.

He started off okay at Hull but ultimately failed to keep them up, while another good start at Watford quickly disintegrated.

His last job was at Everton where he was criticised for failing to give the team an identity and his dismissal was predicted long before it actually happened.

Frankly, Fulham look a bit short, especially when so many favourites over the years have failed to deliver.

Norwich and Leeds may have won in the last two seasons but a bigger sample shows Newcastle (in 2016/17) are the only other club in the past decade to justify ante-post market leadership.

Parker's Bournemouth do look tempting.

Outside the promoted clubs, the Cherries were the highest scorers in this division last season and were hardly shabby defensively, finishing sixth before losing in the play-off semi-finals.

Dominic Solanke finally found his feet as a proper goalscorer and he should go well again.

However, the major problem for potential backers at this stage is the uncertainty surrounding Arnaut Danjuma.

He scored 17 Championship goals last term and also provided a useful seven assists. Villarreal want the Dutchman and the likelihood is he won't be at the Vitality Stadium come September.

That highlights the problem for punters betting at this stage.

The transfer window - ludicrously - doesn't close until more than three weeks into the season and so many of this division's best players are often on the radar of bigger clubs at this time of year.

Any bet placed now involves the risk of a star departing and leaving an awkward-sized hole to fill.

A strong squad helps mitigate that factor and that's one of the reasons I'm prepared to back West Brom in the title market.

Best bet

The Baggies will likely lose players before August 31 with their England international keeper Sam Johnstone and Matheus Pereira both linked with moves to West Ham.

But despite May's relegation, there looks enough talent in the squad for an immediate return to the top flight.

Grady Diangana may not have taken to the Premier League as well as many predicted but he was impressive in this division two years ago and has already shone in pre-season.

Conor Gallagher and Okay Yokuslu's loan spells are over but the signing of Alex Mowatt from Barnsley looks a good one and he is set to form a decent midfield partnership with former England man Jake Livermore. And that's before we mention Romain Sawyers, who has sparkled at this level in the past.

At the back, Semi Ajayi and Kyle Bartley should both be more adept in the Championship, while there's clearly more to come from young Irishman Dara O'Shea.

Perhaps the biggest concern right now is in forward areas - is there an out-and-out goalscorer in this squad?

It may be considered a risk relying on Callum Robinson and Karlan Grant but both certainly have the potential to step up this season.

Robinson netted 12 from his wide role for Preston in an injury-hit 2019/20 campaign, while Grant is a young player who has been promoted too quickly.

A strong League One season for Charlton saw Huddersfield, struggling in the Premier League at the time, take a punt on Grant but there was little he could do in such a poor side.

Grant hit 19 goals the following season when the Terriers were back in the Championship which suggests he's more than capable of scoring goals in this side, one which really should be challenging towards to the top.

Matt Phillips is an experienced campaigner able to supply chances, while Diangana and Pereira are sure to assist plenty if they are still around.

In short, there's lots for new boss Valerien Ismael to work with. The progressive manager arrives fresh from guiding Barnsley to an unexpected fifth-place finish last season.

The Baggies have shown their ability in this division time and again over the years and at around 7/1, they look a decent shout to win the Championship.

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