Former Aston Villa forward Gabby Agbonlahor believes West Bromwich Albion manager Valerien Ismael could be under pressure if his side falls ‘six or seven’ more points adrift of the automatic promotion spots, speaking to Football Insider.
The Frenchman has endured a very mixed tenure at The Hawthorns so far, starting the season well and going unbeaten in his opening ten league games in charge, putting Albion in the driving seat to clinch promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
Also holding the best defensive record in the Championship so far this season, conceding just 18 goals in 24 games, they have been reasonably solid in defence with the back three and England international Sam Johnstone playing a big part in that.
Quiz: Can you name which club West Brom sold these 26 players to?
However, their performances going forward haven’t been good enough in many games, often failing to create enough clear-cut chances and when they do have opportunities, failing to be clinical enough in front of goal with Ismael himself admitting the Baggies needed a striker to help their cause.
The 46-year-old’s style of play has also been criticised by sections of the West Midlands side’s fanbase and after their loss against Derby County on Monday evening, they have fallen further away from Blackburn Rovers who capitalised on their slip-up and secured all three points against Barnsley last night.
With Bournemouth winning against QPR this week and Fulham having a game in hand over them, Albion may be in danger of being forced out of the automatic promotion race unless they can start getting more wins on the board and pundit Agbonlahor believes their manager could be in trouble within weeks if results go against them.
He said: “If you win two games in a row you end up in the top two again.
“But if they drop six or seven more points off the top two then maybe he will be under pressure.
“The owners will not want West Brom to be going through the play-offs, it’s too nervy. They will want them in that top two.
“You can say they need a striker but a lot of teams do, look at Brighton.”
That first sentence from Agbonlahor is key, because a few wins on the bounce could put them back in contention for a top-two spot despite failing to be consistent enough this season to deserve a spot there at this stage.
Their victories over Coventry City and Reading earlier this month showed the huge strides they can make with more wins on the board, but their attack has been woeful and this is why they need to address this area next month.
However, they also need to keep the ball on the floor for the most part, because they created their best chances on the ground through Callum Robinson and Jake Livermore, and you could argue they should already be doing better even without a striker considering the quality they have on paper.
With Karlan Grant now stepping up to the plate, Callum Robinson, Jordan Hugill and Grady Diangana should all be getting on the scoresheet more and not be waiting for a striker to come along and take their place in January.
But with or without a new forward, Ismael needs to be maximising his points return during this crucial period to take the pressure off him, because Albion will be expected to return to the top flight at the end of the campaign.