West Brom have managed to get off to a very strong start to the Championship season, with most of their summer signings having started the campaign in promising fashion.
One of those new additions to have shown promise with their opening performances for West Brom is defender Matt Clarke.
Signed on a season-long loan from Brighton, the centre-back has been able to slot into the back three and look every bit the quality signing he looked like being when the deal with the Seagulls was struck.
Clarke managed to grow his reputation as a strong and commanding centre-back with ability on the ball as well during his two seasons on loan with Derby County in the last two campaigns.
Therefore, when West Brom made the decision to bring him into the Hawthorns on another season-long deal from Brighton, it always looked like being shrews business for the Baggies.
So with Clarke having now had a month to settle into life at West Brom, we take a look at how things have gone so far, what issues he faces and what’s next for him…
How have things gone so far?
On the field, things have got off to a promising start for Clarke at the Hawthorns really.
Injury issues have restricted him to just three appearances in the Championship so far this campaign, but in all of those the Brighton loanee has earned a lot of plaudits amongst supporters for his performances.
The Baggies have managed to win all three of the league games that Clarke has featured in so far this term, doing so against Luton Town, Sheffield United and then Blackburn Rovers.
The defender has been averaging 2.3 interceptions and 2.7 clearances per game and also won an average of 7.3 duels per match so far in the Championship for the Baggies.
Those stats show that Clarke has added a lot of quality to the heart of West Brom’s defence. That has been encouraging because their back-three is asked to perform a lot of defensive work for Ismael’s side with the rest of the team pushing forwards to press opponents.
The major frustration has been on the injury front. It seems that Clarke is going to need more time to get himself fully fit before he can really come into the team and show his quality consistently for the Baggies.
Quiz: Have West Brom won or lost more against each of these 25 English teams?
What issues does he face?
As previously mentioned, the one major issue that Clarke faces at the moment is with his fitness.
His West Brom debut was delayed on the opening day of the campaign at Bournemouth due to an injury setback, but after he returned to action against Luton the hope was that he could have an extended run in the back-three.
However, Clarke was brought off after 42 minutes of West Brom’s win at Blackburn Rovers a few weeks ago and he has not been able to feature for them since.
It is being reported that the hamstring injury that is impacting Clarke at the moment will see him sidelined for the next four weeks or so.
That means that he will have to watch on from a far during the next month or so and see if West Brom can continue the momentum from their strong start to the season.
That has presented a chance to Cedric Kipre to potentially come into the team and show Ismael what he can do with a consistent run of games in the back-three.
The issue for Clarke could well be whether he can come straight back into the side when fit if they continue to be performing well and picking up results.
Frustratingly for Clarke the next few weeks or so are going to be spent fully focusing on rehabilitating from his hamstring injury. Caution will have to be taken not to rush him back too soon from his injury setback.
Clarke will be eager to get back out on the field for the Baggies, but if they rush him back too soon then they risk him suffering more issues that will only leave the defender sidelined for an even longer period.
The defender will need to prove his fitness when he recovers from injury and show Ismael that he can be relied upon to be a consistent starter within their defence for the rest of the campaign.
There is no doubt that Clarke’s quality suggests he will be able to get back into the side when fully fit. However, it will not be easy for him to do so considering the form that West Brom are in at the moment in the Championship.