For a while, West Bromwich Albion managed to shed their tag of being England’s perennial yo-yo team between the Premier League and the Championship, but it’s happened once again.
The Baggies spent eight successive seasons in the top flight before two Championship campaigns in a row, but they could only make their most recent stint a brief one.
With Sam Allardyce departing following relegation, the Baggies board were tasked with finding a new manager – it wasn’t without struggle as sporting director Luke Dowling resigned following the breakdown in Chris Wilder’s potential move to The Hawthorns.
The approach for Barnsley boss Valerien Ismael paid dividends though, with the Frenchman penning a four-year deal following his exploits with the Tykes last season with his immediate goal to earn promotion back to the promised land for the club.
Attentions of course will turn to new arrivals immediately but there’s also transfer interest in some of the club’s big hitters like Sam Johnstone and Matheus Pereira – Baggies fans are probably resigned to losing both players this summer to the Premier League.
In the meantime though Ismael must bolster his squad with pre-season about to start, and there’s a few problem positions he must address – including central midfield.
The sale of Rekeem Harper to Ipswich Town has left West Brom with just two midfielders – Romaine Sawyers and Jake Livermore – both are top-class for this level but more depth is needed for a promotion push.
And it didn’t take long for links to surface to players from Ismael’s old stomping ground as Barnsley skipper Alex Mowatt has been identified as a target, per The Athletic.
After an impressive season which saw him score seven times and assist a further eight goals, Mowatt’s contract is set to expire at the Yorkshire club this week, and despite talks with the club it looks like he will be moving on from Oakwell after four-and-a-half years.
Quiz: What was the score the last time West Brom played each of these 25 teams?
That looked to be the case even before Ismael became a target for West Brom, but now he’s moved on it looks like there’s a strong chance he’s taking Mowatt with him.
And would he be a good fit for the Midlands club? Absolutely.
We have to assume that Ismael will implement his high-pressing, direct 3-4-3 system at The Hawthorns, and considering he trusts Mowatt to do the job in the engine room he would come in as a starting figure.
A double pivot of Sawyers and Livermore would probably be one of the leading pairings in the division but after last season, it’s hard to say that Mowatt wouldn’t offer something a bit different in terms of his effectiveness outside the box – he can really strike one from distance when he wants to.
There’s no harm in having three top quality Championship midfielders in one squad anyway – obviously one player is going to have to miss out but Ismael tended to use a lot of substitutes last season, including often swapping his forward line and midfield options during the second half.
With Sawyers not really featuring much in the second half of last season, he has somewhat of a point to prove but he should prove himself to be quality once again in the Championship – if Mowatt comes in though you’d expect him to pair up with someone with a bit of steel like Livermore to start the season.