West Bromwich Albion boss Valerien Ismael has identified former Chelsea and Italy manager Antonio Conte as the main inspiration behind his current system at The Hawthorns, revealing this to the Express and Star.
The decorated Italian has won Serie A titles in his home nation with Juventus and Inter Milan, but is most known in the UK for taking charge of Chelsea in a two-year spell at Stamford Bridge between 2016 and 2018.
He won a Premier League title and an FA Cup during his time in west London, being fondly remembered by Blues fans despite finishing in a disappointing fifth place in his second and last season with the English side.
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Conte’s success in Europe has been an inspiration to West Brom boss Ismael, who has utilised a similar 3-4-3 system at The Hawthorns this season and it’s something that has brought him great success so far in the 2021/22 campaign.
Speaking to the Express and Star on the 52-year-old’s influence on him, Ismael said: “I studied Conte a lot when he was at Juventus in Italy.
“Then, when he came over to Chelsea, I watched them all the time.
“That was back in 2013. I watched him and their games – any that I could look at with my analysts over a three or four year period.
“I always watched teams who played a back three as I believed it was the future and that it could solve all of our problems.”
The 45-year-old has not only enjoyed success in England at West Brom so far, but also at Barnsley last season after taking over from Gerhard Struber last October and guiding the Tykes from 21st to fifth in the Championship.
This is a stunning achievement considering they had only won a single point from their first four league games before Ismael took charge.
There are few managers that are better to learn from than Antonio Conte, so the fact West Brom’s boss studied him in so much detail has to be commended and this attention to detail could be key to the Baggies’ promotion hopes this season.
Ismael’s 3-4-3 formation has caused a huge amount of problems for Championship teams and with this clear identity and way of playing, the majority of the club’s first-team squad have managed to slot into this new system seamlessly.
This has been vital to their quick start and considering other promotion rivals in AFC Bournemouth and Sheffield United have dropped points, with the latter particularly struggling to get going at this stage, this could also be imperative to the West Midlands side’s charge to the Premier League.
There is a possibility he may need to alter his system to retain their unpredictability, but the main aspects of his playing style should remain in place whilst his side are continuing to perform well.
The centre-back injury crisis may put a spanner in his plans – but they will be hoping the possible addition of free agent Kean Bryan can go a long way in helping to increase their depth and quality in this position.