Mid-Table Ambition: Can West Brom's Summer Business Take Them to the Next Level?
Outside the top tier of Premier League sides there is only one thing that can motivate a club, ambition. While the top six target league glory, Champions League qualification and domestic cup successes, mid-table sides can only harness ambition and hope to finish in the top half of the league.
Ambition is the reason managers are brought in, the reason clubs move stadiums and the reason players make sideways steps. All is done in the name of ambition, and vast amounts of money of course.
Leicester City eradicated the natural order in the 2015/16 campaign, but it wasn't ambition that won the Foxes the title, it was consistency and hard-work.
Kieran Gibbs has completed £7m move to West Brom. Very good signing IMO. Pulis can get him back in England set up. Great servant for Arsenal— John Cross (@johncrossmirror) August 29, 2017
While Everton have just about established themselves among the highest tier of English football, it has largely been Southampton, Stoke City and West Ham United who have been striving to achieve that status of late.
Southampton are a superior mid-table side that have caused the top six problems in recent times, but the Saints have made a reputation for themselves as a selling club that cashes in before ever reaching that sacred next level.
Despite signing an all star attack of Xherdan Shaqiri, Marko Arnautovic and Bojan Krkic, Stoke have failed in their recent attempts to secure European football.
West Ham moved to a higher capacity stadium and invested wildly in their squad in the name of ambition, but the Hammers now sit at the bottom of the Premier League with ten goals conceded in three league defeats, and the club are reportedly debating whether to sack their manager Slaven Bilic.
Ambition certainly is a slippery motivation, but it seems as if Tony Pulis' West Bromwich Albion side could be next in line to have a crack at the big time after a summer of savvy investment and an unbeaten start to the campaign.
Pulis' Baggies side finished tenth in the league last season after a string of robust performances. Pulis has a history of making his sides defensively sound, but he appears to have gone the extra mile and provided his Baggies team with a real cutting edge this summer.
Things looked dour earlier on in the summer with Pulis only completing a deal for China international Yuning Zhang and then immediately loaning the youngster to Werder Bremen for two years.
Pulis then completed a loan deal for Ahmed Hegazi, a relatively unknown defender who Pulis had seen playing for Egypt in the African Cup of Nations. Hegazi was brought in on a low fee and has looked decent in the league since arriving at the club from Egyptian side Al Ahly.
In the last few weeks however, the Baggies have secured deals for Gareth Barry, Jay Rodriguez, Oliver Burke, Kieran Gibbs and Grzegorz Krychowiak.
Barry is a highly talented former England international, and Rodriguez and Gibbs are both eager to break back into the the international set up, while Burke has been touted as a talented Scottish wonder kid and Grzegorz Krychowiak is an accomplished defensive midfielder and centre-back with an impressive reputation. Pulis appears to have concluded deals that can only be described as ambitious.
With Barry accompanied by either Jake Livermore or Claudio Yacob, there is a sense that West Brom have now become defensively superior to many teams in the league. Combined with their new attacking flair Pulis' side looks as if they could cause some serious damage this season.
West Brom are signing Gareth Barry from Everton - meaning the Baggies will soon be impossible to score against— Dean Jones (@DeanJonesBR) August 15, 2017
The top tier of the Premier League is essentially impregnable, excluding Leicester's title winning campaign the top four spots have rarely been breached by a mid-table side.
While ambition is typically something that doesn't always equate to actual league success, West Brom have been quietly going about their business and there's a good chance that they could be rewarded this season.
Tony Pulis has constructed a good chance to take his West Brom side to the next level... Whatever that actually is.