West Bromwich Albion may still be unbeaten in the Championship since the start of the season, but the international break has seemingly stalled their progress.
The Baggies had won four games on the bounce before some of their players jetted off to their countries, and that winning feeling hasn’t been felt since.
Three league draws in succession against Millwall, Derby County and Preston North End has led to some frustrations from Albion fans who believe they should be putting these teams away if they are serious automatic promotion contenders.
Bournemouth have leap-frogged the Baggies in the table, but they haven’t been helped by injuries to both Matt Clarke and Dara O’Shea, meaning left-wing-back Conor Townsend has slotted into the back three with Adam Reach taking his place out wide.
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Ex-Albion striker Kevin Phillips though believes that a change in system may be in order for Valerien Ismael to get the best out of his squad – one that will facilitate Townsend in his natural role.
“It could be time to change to a back-four and play Townsend as a left-back because he gets up and down, he creates opportunities and he gets crosses into the box but he can’t really do that as a left-sided centre-half,” Phillips explained to West Brom News.
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“Maybe there’s frustration from the supporters that they’re not getting the best out of him in terms of going forward because he’s a good player.
“It could be something Ismael looks at tonight (against QPR), but do I think he will change the system? I don’t think he will, to be honest.
“I think he’ll go with the same because they didn’t get beat [at Preston] and with it being a home game with the supporters there, they could have another go at getting that win.”
It’s an interesting thought from Phillips but in his time in England with both Barnsley and now Albion, Ismael has proven himself to be tactically rigid in the system he plays.
The Frenchman has never played with a back four at either club and he’s probably not going to start doing so now – although something needs to change to arrest the string of draws.
Townsend has done nothing wrong in his two matches at left centre-back, however as alluded to by Phillips it’s his attacking qualities that make him a very good Championship player and they’re wasted in the position he’s currently playing.
Ismael clearly doesn’t trust Cedric Kipre to do a job and it may be a case of Kean Bryan making his debut this evening for Townsend to return to his role as left-wing-back as it seems like there’s little to no chance of a back four coming into the equation.