Former West Bromwich Albion star Carlton Palmer believes Valerien Ismael will take the Baggies very close to automatic promotion because of his ability to work on a tight budget, speaking about the Frenchman to This is Futbol.
The recently-relegated side currently sit in third place after winning four and drawing four of their opening eight Championship games, with their only defeat so far this season coming against Arsenal in the second round of the Carabao Cup.
However, draws in the league have proved to be costly for the West Midlands outfit who have dropped out of the automatic promotion spots at the expense of AFC Bournemouth and Fulham. The latter have lost two league games but have won one more than Ismael’s team, keeping Albion outside the top two on goal difference.
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However, Baggies fans will be hoping this is just a blip after seeing their current manager guide former side Barnsley up the Championship table last term in a remarkable fashion, coming in when the Tykes sat in 21st and elevating them to fifth in just a matter of months.
Although they eventually fell to Swansea in the play-off semi-finals, their rise was still seen as a major overachievement having only had a very limited budget to work with at Oakwell with a team that escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth during the 2019/20 season.
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Similarly at West Brom, he was only given a limited amount of resources to work with despite the sale of Matheus Pereira to Al-Hilal, recruiting three loanees and four free agents as they adjust back to the finances of the Championship.
Pundit Carlton Palmer believes Ismael’s ability to work with limited resources gives his former side a great chance of returning to the Premier League next term, saying to This is Futbol: “I don’t see West Brom not competing at the top end of the table, I’m very impressed with Ismael.
“He knew he was coming in there; he knew he wouldn’t have lots of funds, but he had a decent base to go off because obviously they came down from the Premier League and they’ve kept some really good players.
“But he’s proved at Barnsley he can work on shoestring and still get into the play-offs, so I expect West Brom to run it very, very close of getting automatic promotion.”
Being able to work with what he’s given has become a vital asset for Valerien Ismael who may have been notified of West Bromwich Albion’s limited budget, but may not have known they weren’t going to spend a single penny on players in the summer, barring wages, loan and agent fees.
Ideally, they would have brought in another striker to provide more attacking firepower in the centre-forward position and perhaps another central midfielder in the event of an injury crisis at The Hawthorns, but Ismael has done reasonably well so far.
Draws are killers though – and his ability to turn draws into wins will determine whether West Brom can get automatic promotion at the end of the season or not. AFC Bournemouth and Fulham are looking strong as things stand, with Sheffield United finally getting into their stride after a slow start to the campaign.
Whether he can manage with the weight of expectation will also determine whether he will be a success in the West Midlands. Although you could argue Barnsley were expected to beat Swansea City in the play-off semi-finals after their meteoric rise, there’s a lot more pressure to succeed at West Brom with a recently-relegated side.
Unfortunately for Ismael, he was still working within tight transfer parameters during the summer. And in this sense, investment in January could be key for the Baggies. But if you had to grade Ismael’s time at West Brom so far, it would probably be a strong B. If he can start getting into a winning habit, you would certainly bump that up to an A.