West Bromwich Albion are having to come to terms with the Championship fast. A mixed start to the season has seen the Baggies thrash Queens Park Rangers 7-1 whilst also enduring late defeats at the hands of Middlesbrough and Bolton Wanderers.
In those games, questions have been asked of midfielder and current captain Chris Brunt, the 33-year-old returned to captain the side after three years following acquisitions of Darren Fletcher and Jonny Evans from Manchester United. Now with Evans gone following Albion’s relegation, Kyle Bartley has arrived from Swansea City for £4m. Despite not keeping a clean sheet so far in the league, Bartley has looked impressive, leading the defensive along with giving the squad valuable Championship experience. With Brunt potentially being dropped in coming games, it could be time to hand Bartley the armband.
If you cast your mind to February 2015, the experienced Darren Fletcher joined Albion and was admittedly made captain, taking over from Brunt. Then head coach, Tony Pulis made it known that Brunt was not disappointed to lose the captaincy, saying it had been put onto him previously.
Looking at Albion’s number 11 right now, he looks slow in the middle. To no fault of his own, he is not a central midfielder, as the first five Championship games have shown. He is being dispossessed too easily on the ball and has looked leggy chasing back especially in a midfield two. This was shown perfectly when he gave away a penalty against Norwich earlier in the season and his booking in Albion’s emphatic win over QPR. With Albion also lacking a cutting edge from set pieces this season unlike many previous, Brunt has seen himself become a passenger in the side. Now with Kieran Gibbs playing at left wing back, it asks the question of whether Brunt even fits into Albion’s side let alone as captain. Darren Moore doesn’t want to put himself into a position where Brunt becomes unable to drop due to him being Albion’s skipper.
For me, Kyle Bartley is Brunt’s obvious replacement as West Brom’s captain. The defender has looked like a leader in his short Albion career. From the opening day he has been seen belting instructions towards partner Ahmed Hegazi (along with every other Albion fan).
Bartley opitimises what this new look Albion wants to play like. He possesses an ability to play out from the back and being quick across the back-line. The 27-year-old could find himself in the Albion line-up for many years to come. The centre back also offers the Baggies vital Championship experience, playing for Leeds and Birmingham City over recent years which may seen to be missing from the current group of players after Albion have kept many of their players from their Premiership campaigns. The man of the match against Boro certainly deserves a chance to wear the armband.
Personally, I have always loved Chris Brunt, however, this new look Albion side doesn’t favour him playing in the middle of the pitch. Maybe it is time to look to the future and see Brunt as an impact player rather than a certain starter and captain.
Picture Credit: West Brom