Pre-season has gone seemingly well so far with both the local press and manager Steve Clarke being extremely positive over the team’s performances. Nicolas Anelka has managed to score two goals on his debut against Puskas FC Academy. One can argue that it is still pre-season and that it is difficult to judge how a player will do in a competitive game, but the signs are good and could be a masterstroke by Clarke to push the Baggies on even further this season.
With the recent departure of striker Romelu Lukaku back to West London for the upcoming season, West Brom’s Clarke has brought in the experienced Nicolas Anelka. Clarke had a brief encounter with the striker at their time at Chelsea together; however, the pair didn’t work together for long as Clarke left at the end of the 2007/08 season and Anelka had arrived that January.
West Brom fans hope that the pair can build a solid relationship, as there have been claims in the past that Anelka can be a difficult player to manage, causing problems within squads. From his time as Chelsea, it would seem these claims have been outgrown with the striker maturing and not becoming unsettled. However, it’s obvious Anelka is prone to outbursts that can cause issues within camps. In 2010, he was sent home from the squad after reportedly being abusive to Coach Raymond Domenech during half-time, and later refused to publicly apologise for the outburst.
Steve Clarke needs another goal scorer to help Long upfront after Lukaku returned to Chelsea, a player who scored 17 league goals for the club last season. It would be unlikely that Anelka would be able to have such a positive impact due to age, however many would have argued the same for Romelu. Anelka will aim to be able to use his vast experience of the game to help push the Baggies on to breaking into Europe, a tough task with teams around them strengthening but one that they will relish, no doubt.
Although Anelka has aged and hasn’t played as much as he would have hoped in the last few seasons (only two appearances for Juventus last season), he can still have a positive impact next season. His goal scoring ability in the Premier League cannot be questioned. In 2008/09 he managed 19 league goals, winning the Golden Boot and beating both Cristiano Ronaldo and Fernando Torres to the prize. At Chelsea, Anelka wasn’t always given his preferred role of a centre forward but was still able to perform to a high level, chipping in with both goals and assists. This is an extremely useful part of Anelka’s game, enabling him to be used in different forward positions and becoming the ideal player to have within the squad.
To me, it seems that if Clarke can keep Anelka in good spirits and playing for the team, then he will no doubt succeed in becoming a good short-term signing. With his current age it would be foolish to suggest this being a longer term one. It is imperative that Clarke is able to do so as this then offers the Baggies a quality forward that can once again become a match winner. If Anelka manages to use his experience correctly, then the impact he could have at West Brom could be massive. He may also be able to have an influence on the up and coming stars at the club, helping them learn and understand what it takes to be a top player in the Premier League.