Valerien Ismael has told West Bromwich Albion supporters to expect ‘high-intensity’ football with a ‘high press’ at his first press conference as the Baggies manager, with the West Midlands side preparing for life back in the Championship.
The 45-year-old Frenchman arrived at the Hawthorns last month as Sam Allardyce’s successor after transforming Barnsley’s fortunes and lifting them from 21st to fifth in just over sixth months despite eventually missing out on promotion – and has made former captain Alex Mowatt his first signing after the 26-year-old’s contract expired at Oakwell.
Despite this, a couple of their key players in Matheus Pereira and Sam Johnstone are rumoured to be on their way out this summer and even without these potential departures, Ismael will want to make at least a few more signings to shape the squad and perfect his playing style ahead of the new campaign, with the Baggies already back in pre-season training.
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The West Brom manager’s philosophy and playing style was both praised and criticised during his time with Barnsley – but after transforming them from relegation candidates to the in-form team in the Championship – the 45-year-old silenced his critics and he will be hoping to do that once more.
Express and Star journalist Joseph Masi was present at Ismael’s first press conference this afternoon and summarised the tone the manager struck, saying in a Tweet: “He says the fans can expect high-intensity football, high press but with this team he believes the team will be able to have more possession. Says he wants the complete team.”
If these words can translate into action, West Brom fans could be in for a very exciting season at the Hawthorns.
Regardless of the criticisms regarding his playing style, one thing is completely clear: he managed to get the very best out of those Barnsley players and took them as far as he possibly could.
The one thing West Brom fans will want above all else next season is promotion, not a fancy philosophy with no substance and no hope. And if they can sit through five months of Sam Allardyce near the bottom of the table, high pressing under Ismael has to be more entertaining.
He already has Alex Mowatt who knows about his playing style – and he may decide to bring in one or two more players from his old side to implement his philosophy in a smoother fashion. But only time will tell how successful Ismael will be at his new club.