Filling the centre-forward position is arguably the most important business Albion will do all summer. It is not about back-up, it is about signing a striker who can nail down the number nine position, score over 20 goals and fire the Baggies back to the Premier League.
In reality, it is a position West Brom has struggled to fill since Salomon Rondon left three years ago. Hal Robson-Kanu had his moments, as did Mbaye Diagne last season; the less we say about the £8m spent on Kenneth Zohore, the better.
Here are three strikers who could fill the void.
Adam ArmstrongEmbed from Getty Images
Every option on the list so far has been somewhat realistic – signings from League One, loan signings or young players from the Championship. I can have fun with at least one, can’t I?
There is little doubt that Adam Armstrong at the Hawthorns would be A LOT of fun. At just 24 years old, the Blackburn man has developed into the most prolific forward in the Championship, netting 28 goals in 40 games last season. He also managed a respectable five assists and made it into the Championship ‘Team of the Week’ SEVEN times.
He can also play anywhere across the front three, which would fit in with Albion’s existing versatility in that department, with Grady Diangana, Karlan Grant, Callum Robinson and Matt Phillips appearing to be fairly interchangeable throughout pre-season.
With goals, talent and youth on his side – why on earth aren’t Albion in for him?
Surprisingly, there are quite a few drawbacks to signing Armstrong. Arguably, at just 5″8, his biggest weakness is his aerial ability. In fact, just three of his 30 goals last season (all competitions) were headed. Ismael’s system involves a lot of balls into the box, either through wide-play or set pieces. Despite his finishing prowess, would you really want Armstrong on the end of them?
He is also valued at £18m by Transfermrkt; realistically, Blackburn would want more than that. Indeed, Ollie Watkins, a 24 year-old English striker who scored 20-odd goals in the Championship, went for £34m.
Armstrong would score plenty of goals for West Brom. His signature would also send shockwaves throughout the Championship; however, given his cost, such a Hollywood signing is an unnecessary one. In any case, a move for Armstrong would require Albion receive the desired £30m for Matheus Pereira, as well as £10m for Sam Johnstone. As things stand, both seem unlikely.
Daryl DikeEmbed from Getty Images
If Armstrong’s signature would represent the Hollywood signing, then the acquisition of Daryl Dike would be much more muted.
Dike spent half of last season on loan at Barnsley, and so is familiar with Ismael, his football philosophies and would also link up well with fellow former Tyke, Mowatt.
Coming from Orlando City in the MLS, Dike scored nine goals in 13 starts (19 appearances overall). He is quick, direct and, unlike Armstrong, powerful in the air. He struggles at time with his ball control, subsequently affecting his ability to hold up the ball.
At just 21 years old, however, he has time to develop. And as mentioned, existing relationships with Ismael, his team and Mowatt would likely make Dike’s transition to the Black Country much smoother.
It is unclear whether Orlando City and indeed Dike himself would want such a move. As noted, he joined the Tykes in January, when the MLS season had not yet commenced. Plenty of MLS players find loan moves during the so-called ‘off-season’ so to maintain a level of fitness and sharpness.
Dike has started the MLS season well, scoring two in four. And being American himself, it might be difficult to convince him to make the leap to the Championship once again.
If Albion could convince Dike, his signature would not break the bank, with anything in the region of £8-10m likely to be sufficient. I mean, we all remember what happened the last time Albion spent £8m on a striker for the Championship.
Dike feels different to Zohore, though; younger, hungrier, more familiar and more prolific. There is no doubt he should be on Albion’s ‘centre-forward’ list this summer.
Jonson Clarke-HarrisEmbed from Getty Images
Armstrong represents Hollywood, Dike is a bit more conservative; naturally, that makes Jonson Clarke-Harris the gamble.
Clarke-Harris joined Peterborough United last August as the chosen successor of Ivan Toney and he certainly did not disappoint. He managed 31 goals in 45 appearances (0.7 goals per game, 0.1 short of Toney’s 0.8 in his final season at Peterborough). This form, like Armstrong, earned him seven appearances in the League One ‘Team of the Week’.
It is also clear that the Englishman has been improving year-on-year; in 2019/20, he netted 13 goals in 26 appearances, and 16 in 42 during the 2018/2019 campaign.
His style does not differ too much from Toney, though perhaps less elegant, so it is no surprise Peterborough snapped him up as soon as Toney left for Brentford. He is an excellent finisher – a poacher – and perhaps most crucially, physically strong and good in the air. These attributes are crucial to success in the Championship.
In fact, Clarke-Harris already has Championship experience. At just 21 years old, he netted three in 15 for Rotherham United during the 2014/15 season, and six in 36 the following season. These figures are not great, though his age and progression since must be accounted for.
At 27 years old, Clarke-Harris appears to be entering the prime years of his career, and given his success last season, now would be the best time to sign him. Peterborough would unlikely demand a massive fee, either. He has three years left on his current deal, having signed for £1.4m last summer. Something close to £4m would probably suffice.
All three signings would represent a successful transfer window for the Baggies in relation to the acquisition of a centre-forward. Armstrong knows the league inside-out, and would probably bag upwards of 20 goals. His fee though, even in the event of Pereira and Johnstone moving on, would likely stretch the Baggies’ budget too thin.
Dike also knows the league, albeit not as well; however, he knows exactly what Ismael wants. At 21 years old, he could also prove to be a fruitful investment for the future, either through goals or a future transfer fee.
Clarke-Harris, at present, appears the most appealing option. His attributes suggest he has everything to succeed; to succeed in Ismael’s system, and to succeed in the Championship. He is entering the prime of his career and would likely be the cheapest option on the list. Snap him up, Albion.
The final wish-list:
Ethan Laird (RWB)
Trevoh Chalobah (DM)
Jonson Clarke-Harris (CF)