Ex-West Bromwich Albion forward Kevin Phillips has serious doubts over whether the Baggies can retain their current style of play for the long-term, speaking in an interview with West Brom News.
Valerien Ismael’s side have done remarkably well so far this season, going unbeaten in all but one of their opening 11 league games of the season so far under a new manager as they returned to the Championship.
Having endured a change of division and manager in the summer, with seven new players arriving at The Hawthorns during the previous transfer window, an alteration to the Baggies’ formation and style of play was also made under a man who guided Barnsley from 21st place to the play-offs last term.
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This pressing system has required a high amount of intensity with their press and with this, a regular rotation of their front line to adapt to their opposition and keep players fresh.
However, several players have remained regulars in the starting lineup, including midfield partnership Jake Livermore and Alex Mowatt and wing-backs Conor Townsend and Darnell Furlong.
With their style of play and a much busier footballing schedule compared to last season for West Brom, Valerien Ismael said after their last game against Stoke City that this international break is a much-needed period of recuperation for his players.
Former Baggie Kevin Phillips doesn’t dispute the 45-year-old’s comments, but does hold reservations about the long-term viability of his system, saying to West Brom News: “Yeah, [it’s understandable] with the style of football (Ismael’s comments on needing to rest).
“I was at the game at Stoke and they were pretty poor on the night, to be honest. Stoke played well so the better team on the evening won.
“With the style of play, they need to rest when they can.
“I think people have asked, ‘can they keep that style up all season with the size of the squad?’. It’s very difficult to do that.”
The central midfield area is definitely something they need to have a look at in January with the demands placed on the likes of Jake Livermore and Alex Mowatt, the latter of whom is currently injured after being withdrawn against Stoke City.
This need to address certain positions could therefore make the January transfer window vital to their promotion hopes, because even without the intensity of their current system, you would say they need at least a couple of enforcements to improve their strength in depth.
A main goalscorer may also need to be on the agenda after recruiting Jordan Hugill who only scored four times for Norwich City last term, although it’s unclear whether officials at The Hawthorns would be willing to splash out on a fee for Daryl Dike after seeing a lack of spending during the summer.
Considering they need to adapt back to the finances and smaller revenue generated from the Championship, this is understandable. But after selling Matheus Pereira, they should have a reasonable amount of funds to conduct some shrewd business in the winter window as they look to claim their ticket back to the Premier League.
A striker and central midfielder are just two positions that need to be looked at, so it could be a busy month for the recruitment team in the West Midlands when the next calendar year begins.