The link has been widely reported but it seems Brighton and Hove Albion’s Matt Clarke’s season-long loan move to West Bromwich Albion is gathering pace.
Journalist John Percy has revealed late this morning that a medical is expected later today.
Brighton are stacked in depth and quality in the centre back position, therefore it is no slight on the 24-year-old’s ability that he is set for a third successive season on loan in the Championship, following his £3.5million transfer across the south coast from Portsmouth in the 2019 summer window.
A final day relegation scrap will stand Clarke is very good stead in terms of Championship experience in his turbulent two seasons playing under Phillip Cocu and Wayne Rooney at Derby County.
Another loan spell at 24 may raise some eyebrows but with centre backs typically not reaching their peak until at least 30, it remains sensible player development from the Seagulls. Clarke is joining a side with clear promotion ambitions this time around. He also possesses that magic weapon of value that is desired by most managers in their central defensive contingent, he is left footed. Here, we look at three things Clarke will bring to the Albion…
Clarke will be in esteemed company as a centre back in the Baggies’ squad, boasting the services of Semi Ajayi, Dara O’Shea, Kyle Bartley and Cedric Kipre along with the potential new addition is an embarrassment of riches at Championship level.
But do not forget the trump card, those other four are right footed, therefore to perfect the balance that Valerien Ismael is looking for, particularly with the Frenchman known for deploying a three at the back system, he wants a natural left footer to occupy the left centre back berth.
Style of play
It is horses for courses, Ismael may have had more high-profile defenders on his shortlist but if they do not fit into his intense pressing style then the move would not work.
Matt Clarke is an adept ball playing centre-back and his passing range will excite Ismael, who, should he emulate his approach that took Barnsley from relegation candidates to play-off semi finalists last term, will be aiming to get the ball into the attacking third as soon as possible once West Brom regain possession.
Out of left footed centre backs who played more than 40 games in the Championship last season, only Huddersfield Town’s Naby Sarr completed more accurate long balls than Matt Clarke, with the Baggies target completing 4.4 per 90 minutes according to WhoScored.com.
It is not yet clear if there is an option to buy clause in this deal however should the Baggies achieve their goal for the season of promotion then one would think Clarke would be a shoo-in on a permanent move.
In last season’s 19th placed finish West Brom had comfortably the worst defensive record in the division, compared to attacking output ranking them in 17th, if they were able to shore up the backline it might have been a different story. Ever improving Matt Clarke is a sensible acquisition in combatting that.