Ex-West Bromwich Albion forward Kevin Phillips says he understands why Baggies supporters were disappointed with Kenneth Zohore’s Carabao Cup performance last, but leapt to the defence of the 27-year-old in an interview with West Brom News.
The Danish forward was given a start against Premier League outfit Arsenal after being left out of their squad completely for last weekend’s Championship win away at Blackburn Rovers, but failed to make the impact he desired after seeing a strong Gunners side fire their way to an emphatic 6-0 away victory.
However, Zohore wasn’t just criticised last night, but has been throughout the 2021/22 campaign after returning from last season’s loan spell at Millwall and his future now looks uncertain at The Hawthorns after the arrival of Jordan Hugill from Norwich City.
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He was given a second chance in the West Midlands following the expiration of Mbaye Diagne’s loan spell at the start of the summer and their previous failure to address their lack of firepower up top.
But after arriving from Cardiff City in July 2019 in an £8m deal, Zohore has only made 23 appearances in all competitions for the Baggies, scoring five times and not matching the levels he reached in the Welsh capital prior to his move.
His time at Valerien Ismael’s side was summed up by last night’s performance and was withdrawn in the 65th minute for 18-year-old Mo Faal – but Kevin Phillips has jumped to the defence of the 27-year-old who was always going to endure a tough night against the likes of Sead Kolasinac and Rob Holding.
Speaking to West Brom News, he said: “It was a great opportunity for him (Zohore) to come in and show the fans what he hasn’t shown. But it’s hard to judge him because he went in for a tackle after five minutes and hurt his knee.
“You could clearly see he was uncomfortable as he was limping around but that’s from over-enthusiasm and the way Ismael wants his players to press I’m going to give him the slight benefit of the doubt because he was carrying a knock for most of the game.
“You could tell he wanted to carry on and was desperate to do well. He ran around and put himself about but it just didn’t happen for him.
“It’s difficult to judge him when he’s playing with the Under-23s against that Arsenal team.
“Overall, his performance wasn’t what we have seen from him over the years so I can understand why supporters were disappointed.”
Kevin Phillips is right to defend Zohore in this case.
West Brom fans’ frustration with the forward has built up over two years after not seeing him live up to expectations, so it’s no surprise to see them let their feelings be known on social media.
However, he faced a daunting task last night, not only in facing experienced Premier League defenders like Holding and Kolasinac, but also playing alongside some very inexperienced players.
Take Quevin Castro for example. This was his first start and his inexperience showed with Arsenal’s first goal – but he was playing non-league football with Thetford Town just a few years ago so Zohore only had a limited number of tools to work with.
The main frustration for West Brom supporters is the fact the forward had very capable players around him against Luton Town earlier this season and still struggled to make a real impact.
But there’s a player in there somewhere – we could all see that from his Cardiff City days – and manager Valerien Ismael should continue to work with Zohore to see if he can get a tune out of the forward on the training ground.
The trouble is, his loan spell at Millwall wasn’t the most spectacular either. So the 27-year-old’s ability to turn his career around after two seasons of mediocrity will determine whether he plays a big role for West Brom for the remainder of this season or not.