West Bromwich Albion legend Ally Robertson remains unconcerned about Valerien Ismael’s style of play despite criticism from some fans, stating that winning games is all that matters in an interview with the Express and Star.
The Baggies have been impressive in large parts of the 2021/22 campaign under the Frenchman so far, with the 45-year-old arriving at The Hawthorns from Championship rivals Barnsley at the end of June after guiding the Tykes to the top six last term against all odds.
This was after a meteoric rise from the South Yorkshire side from 21st to fifth – and Ismael has started in a similar vein in the West Midlands – with Albion only losing their first league game of the season at the start of the month.
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Considering the Championship campaign is 11 games old now, this is an impressive record, although it hasn’t all been plain sailing at the recently-relegated side.
They drew three consecutive games after the international break, all three of which were arguably winnable games for the Baggies, and they were even booed off at half-time in their late 2-1 win against Queens Park Rangers last month.
Much of this frustration has been down to their direct style of play, although they have developed and tweaked their game at times to switch things up.
Ex-West Brom centre-back Ally Robertson, who made over 500 appearances for the club as a player, is unconcerned by this though and believes getting three points on the board is the most important.
He said to the Express and Star: “At the start of the season, I think all Albion fans would have taken being in second position after 11 games.
“The gaffer has got the team playing and winning and that’s all that matters.
“I know some fans aren’t overly happy with the style.
“But the sole aim for this season is to win promotion to the Premier League.
“If we do that it will have been a fantastic season.”
Most West Brom fans would probably agree with this, because as long as they are getting three points on the board, it means they are taking another big step towards a return to the Premier League.
Whether Ismael’s style of play works effectively in the long-term remains to be seen, but it certainly worked out across the whole season at Barnsley after he replaced Gerhard Struber and he’s shown he can make tweaks to adapt to the opposition.
When speaking about his frontline rotation, it was fascinating to hear that he adapts his side based on the Baggies’ opponents.
As a recently-relegated side and one of the strongest teams on paper in the Championship, you would think they would have the arrogance to force teams to adapt to them instead, but this attention to detail from the Frenchman is impressive and could help to set his side apart from other promotion candidates.
It may sound fickle to say the style of play is fine when they are winning and not working when they lose, but their focus has to be on the short term in their quest to get back to the Premier League.
If they keep winning, the debate about the long-term viability of the philosophy can be held at another time. Sitting in second on goal difference at this moment in time, they are in a good position to go on and achieve their ultimate goal of returning to the top flight.