West Bromwich Albion boss Valerien Ismael has hailed his players for showing aggression, desire, a strong mentality and intensity despite only being able to secure a 0-0 draw at Blackpool last night, as he spoke to the club’s media team.
The Baggies registered a whopping 26 shots yesterday evening as they looked to avenge for their poor recent form, but were unable to solve their chronic lack of cutting edge in front of goal despite arguably putting in an improved performance.
This response came after their 1-0 away loss against Huddersfield Town at the weekend, though their reaction to their defeat at the John Smith’s Stadium wasn’t enough to make up any considerable ground on the top two.
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This will be seen as a missed opportunity for Ismael’s men after second-placed AFC Bournemouth’s loss against Derby County on Saturday, considering a win at Bloomfield Road last night would have taken them within five points of the Cherries and a precious automatic promotion spot.
But with Albion being held by Neil Critchley’s outfit, wins for current leaders Fulham and Scott Parker’s men tonight against bottom side Derby and Millwall respectively would widen the gap between the top two and the West Midlands side to ten points.
For a side expecting to be fighting at the very top of the second-tier table following their relegation from the Premier League last term, this would be a real blow and many would see this as a real underachievement, especially if Stoke City win tonight and overtake them in the table.
But Frenchman Ismael was proud of his players’ performance in Lancashire, saying post-match: “I think it was a great response from Saturday.
“The performance was exactly what we want to be. Aggressive. Plenty of desire. A strong mentality. Intensity.
“It was a tough away game and we can take a lot of positives.
“We need to take what we can get at the minute and getting a clean sheet is a positive. We created a lot of chances, but compared to last Saturday, this time there were more real chances to score.
“At the minute it’s the final ball, and we need to work on that. We will keep going because we are really close.”
A real lack of quality in the final third has been an issue for some time, so Ismael must take his fair share of the responsibility for that, because it has cost them dearly and will continue to do so unless this issue is fully addressed.
But taking a deeper look into last night, the players must also be held accountable for their inability to finish their chances because they had several golden opportunities to take the lead and failed to do so.
This highlights the need for a striker to come in during the January transfer window, so it’s puzzling to hear the Baggies’ boss saying that they already have a sufficient amount of quality up front, because yesterday suggested otherwise.
Karlan Grant and Callum Robinson may have been promising at different stages of the season, but the latter’s consistency in particular can be questioned and judging from last season’s form, Jordan Hugill doesn’t have enough goals in his locker to fire the club to promotion at the first time of asking.
This is why they need someone like Daryl Dike, who scored nine goals in 19 games for Barnsley last term, to come in and solve their woes in front of goals. But it remains to be seen whether the second-tier side’s hierarchy are willing to invest the money to recruit the United States international.