Lukaku exit looms large for WBA

Monday 8th April 2013 17:33

Romelu Lukaku: Has been key to Albion's fine season

Romelu Lukaku: Has been key to Albion's fine season

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West Brom FanZoner Craig Punfield admits Romelu Lukaku's return to Chelsea will hit Albion hard, putting pressure on their summer business.

As I sat in the Birmingham Road End on Saturday, looking on as West Brom lost 2-1 to Arsenal, there was a sense of satisfaction.

We would be facing opposition with the calibre such as Arsenal's for a fourth successive season, and it looks like we can finally shake off the 'yo-yo' tag that has been hanging around our necks for the past 10 years.

But as I trudged out of the stadium, in disbelief how we failed to get something from the game - not something I thought I would be questioning after the first-half showing - I feared whether we would have things as rosy as we have had it this year for the next campaign.

Until around the hour mark on Saturday we looked like a team with few ideas, the only real plan was to boot the ball forward and hope that Shane Long would be able to latch onto it with his pace.

He rarely did, but if he did manage to get possession there was no one supporting him to try and cause what is a shaky Gunners defence any problems.

I know that the London side are one that should be beating us and causing us problems, they are chasing Champions League football and failure to secure a top-four finish would be seen as nothing else than a failure - they are simply better than us.

So it isn't so much the manner in which we lost which has given me reason for concern, more the reason why we came so close to getting something out of the game.

He's 19, worth around £20million and we've got him on loan from the European champions.

Chelsea's Romelu Lukaku, as we all know, has been an integral part to the success we have had this term and his introduction into the match against Arsene Wenger's men really highlighted to me again why he has been a vital cog in our progression this year.

His arrival into the match brought with him more fluidity in the side, more movement and a greater amount of chances being created, we looked a side confident of finding the back of the net, which was a vast contrast to a side earlier looking bereft of confidence and lacking ideas.

It looks increasingly more likely that Peter Odemwingie will be given Albion's Player of the Year Award than us being able to retain the services of the Belgian forward next season and without him, I wonder where the goals and creation of chances are going to come from for us.

You can point out Long as one of the 'go-to-guys' to get you a goal, but he hasn't made the net bulge since January 30th, nine games ago against Everton.

There is also no guarantee that the Irishman will be with us next year, with Lazio and Sevilla two of the teams supposedly hovering around The Hawthorns, looking to swoop for the striker if he fails to sign a new contract.

The summer is going to be a massive period of player recruitment for the Baggies and will more than likely affect the direction the club goes in the next two to four years.

Get it right and I will look a fool for even questioning the team; get it wrong and next season we could be in for a much more tense final five games than this relaxing end to the campaign we are currently enjoying (most of the time).

By Craig Punfield, FanZone's West Brom blogger. Follow him on Twitter at @Punnerss - and don't forget to follow @FanZone too!

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