The Baggies found themselves short of options in this area during the early stages of the 2021/22 campaign with Valerien Ismael opting to play a back three – and with this – the Frenchman decided to recruit Kean Bryan in the early stages of September.
At that time, the likes of Matt Clarke and Dara O’Shea were struggling with injuries, but the Baggies soon found themselves with plenty of options at the back when all of their options in central defence became available once more.
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Since the end of last season though, former loanee Clarke has returned to Brighton and both Cedric Kipre and Caleb Taylor have been able to go out on loan, with Bryan remaining out of action with his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury.
This has left O’Shea, Semi Ajayi and Kyle Bartley as their only orthodox options in central defender at this stage, potentially making this area one that needs to be addressed.
However, Bruce believes he can call on others to fill in if even fewer options become available to him during the 2021/22 campaign.
He said: “We’ve obviously got Kean Bryan who is a long-term injury, so we’ve still got four official ones on the books.
“Unfortunately, though, he is still a little bit away. We’ve also got Okay who can play at centre-back if he wants.
“I’ve seen Livermore play there, he did that, at centre-back as well.
“We think we’ve got enough to cope. We felt it (the loan) was more for Taylor’s development, that’s more important.”
It would be wise if they were to bring in another option – because although others can fill in – a team with their financial capabilities should have the resources to recruit another player in this area without too much trouble.
Bartley, Ajayi and O’Shea may be good options to have – but a fresh face in the backline could help to shake things up and though that isn’t exactly needed considering they weren’t terrible in defence last year, keeping players on their toes with fresh competition can only be a good thing.
This competition would help to maximise performance levels, so the Baggies would be fools if they didn’t recruit another player in this area, with plenty of loan slots to use up too if they don’t want to spend a huge amount.
The left-back area is also a department that needs to be looked at – because Conor Townsend isn’t guaranteed to stay fit for the entire season and though Adam Reach can operate there, he isn’t exactly a natural option in this area.
A backup for John Swift will be useful as well as a striker to compete with Daryl Dike, leaving Albion with a minimum of four players to sign before the summer window closes.