May 26, 2024

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Carlos Corberan’s transfer caveat & West Brom’s regrettable exchange

The talking points from the Potteries as West Brom bow out of the EFL Cup at the first round at the hands of Stoke City

West Bromwich Albion are out of the EFL Cup having suffered their second defeat in four days at the beginning of this new season, at Stoke City. An unfortunate Josh Griffiths own goal put the Potters in front in the first half, before Brandon Thomas-Asante levelled up in the second half.

As was the case on Saturday, there were two goals in quick time – on this occasion, it involved Albion conceding immediately after scoring themselves as Andre Vidigal won it for the hosts. Albion had a go, as you might’ve expected, in the closing stages, but weren’t able to force Mark Travers into another big save and exit the competition at the first hurdle for the second time in three years.

Carlos Corberan didn’t hang around after the game. In the answer to the first question put to him, he spoke of the transfer window, Albion’s position in it and how the club requires help in the coming weeks – with that maintained caveat, that they must work within the parameters of their situation.

 

Brandon Thomas-Asante of West Bromwich Albion celebrates

The picture is changing, slowly, all the time. David Button became the latest player to leave the club on Tuesday, expected to join Reading in the near future. Albion, though, have been clear all along that funds must be raised from within, and quite clearly they aren’t in control of all of the moving parts. There’s little room to bargain. The pool in which they’re fishing is minute.

They have Josh Maja to enter the equation, and Jeremy Sarmiento got more minutes under his belt here ahead of the prospect of a start in the near future, but Albion are still short in various positions. Corberan has designs on the idea of two players competing in every position come the end of August, coupled with the flexibility to adapt to various systems. There would appear to be still work to do to realise that utopian scenario.

The one constant

With the wholesale changes considered, there was a bit of a double take when reading the team sheet at 18:45. Townsend…oh, and Pieters. Gardner-Hickman…and Swift, too. As they warmed up pre-match, a back five looked clear as Ingram, Taylor, Bartley, Pieters and Townsend trained together as a five, in that order.

In midfield, it was a bit like a box. Chalobah, one of two survivors who started on Saturday, operated with the left-footed balance offered by Mowatt. Swift, as you’d expect, operated in a more advanced role and was the closest to lone forward Malcolm, while Gardner-Hickman had a comparably free role.

Irritatingly, the habit of conceding goals, particularly sloppy ones where opposing forwards haven’t had to work their socks off to carve out a chance, was evident again here. Pre-season is pre-season, of course, but the signs were there then too – at Burton, at Bolton and, then when the season began officially, very much at Blackburn. Different personnel, different system – same mistakes.

Brandon Thomas-Asante of West Bromwich Albion celebrates

Sad state of affairs

From my vantage point in the press box to the left of the away end, I could see that there was an exchange of sorts between Albion midfielder Chalobah and a group of supporters towards the bottom of the allocation, and a gesture made by the midfielder, as he and the rest of the Albion team made their way down the tunnel at half time.

Chalobah didn’t enjoy the most positive of beginnings at Albion. In fact one his best performance coincided with his injury at Blackpool in April, which ruled him out for the rest of the season. The next time we saw him was something of a surprise, at Burton, at the time when he was expected to leave the club for Maccabi Haifa. After an ordinary showing at Blackburn, he was kept in the side here

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Brandon Thomas-Asante of West Bromwich Albion celebrates

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Chalobah’s first half performance here was more of the same. Was he the only player whose performance was sub par? Certainly not, but what took place [whatever was said from either side of the terraces] in those moments after the half time whistle were unpalatable, regrettable and, clearly, not wanted at a time when Albion’s staff and squad have been promoting a unified, siege mentality in pre-season amid their off-field challenges.

It’s a long season, but this is Albion’s only midweek game until after the September international break. It’s actually quite a gentle introduction into the new season, where they’ll play five matches in as many weekends, culminating in the welcoming of Neil Warnock and Huddersfield on 2 September – the day after transfer deadline day. How might the picture of the squad have changed by then.

Brandon Thomas-Asante of West Bromwich Albion celebrates

After Blackburn and this, an early exit from the cup, fans would otherwise be looking ahead with real excitement and enthusiasm to the first home game of the new season. Instead there’s trepidation and nerves. As I say, irrespective of how Saturday pans out – it’s a long season.

Even so, a win would be a timely pick me up. For Corberan, who has already been rapped on the knuckles by the EFL this season and longs for more signings; for the squad, who left Ewood Park with zero points and who are still awaiting the benefit of new faces; for the fanbase, who have largely been less than enamoured with the beginning to the new campaign and are left concerned by the club’s long-term security. A win in any form would go a long way.

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