Comment: Stats make grim reading – so West Brom must be flexible

Valerien Ismael is a manager who likes statistics.

Valerien Ismael. (Photo by Adam Fradgley/WBA FC via Getty Images).
Valerien Ismael. (Photo by Adam Fradgley/WBA FC via Getty Images).

His tactics, his team selections and his transfer strategy are all heavily influenced by numbers.

So with his team on a poor run and struggling to score goals, you can bet he is aware of the following.

Since they last scored almost five hours ago, Albion have had 55 attempts on goal.

It sounds a lot. But the xG – or expected goals – figure from those chances is just 4.35.

And that backs up what supporters are seeing with their own eyes.

Albion consistently get into dangerous areas. But they often don’t turn those dangerous situations into clear-cut chances.

And you can’t help but feel Ismael and his employers now need to show some flexibility if they are serious about competing for automatic promotion this year.

In terms of Ismael, it feels the time has come for the Frenchman to be more adaptable with his 3-4-3 system. The boss has made it clear he wants Albion to play that formation each and every week.

But, as things stand, he simply doesn’t have the players to do it.

Ismael wants his midfield players to get the ball wide to the wing-backs, who are then tasked with sending crosses into the box.

But when those deliveries arrive, you need a strong and imposing centre-forward to get on the end of them – something the boss just doesn’t have at the minute.

Instead, Ismael has experimented with Matt Phillips and Callum Robinson in the role. But neither are suited to it – and watching them struggle week after week is doing nothing for their confidence levels.

Physically, Jordan Hugill should have the attributes needed to be Ismael’s number nine. But the Norwich loanee lacks composure in front of goal. It’s also true that he has often played his best football when deployed in a front two with a more mobile strike partner.

Ismael doesn’t have to abandon his 3-4-3 principles.

But mixing it up to become a 3-4-1-2 or 3-4-2-1 could make a big difference, particularly for Robinson who would likely thrive in the number 10 role and for Hugill who would likely benefit from playing alongside Karlan Grant.

It won’t be what Ismael wants to do long-term. But until January, a tweak could give a new lease of life to an attack seriously lacking spark.

Where Albion could also do with some flexibility is with their transfer budget.

Ismael has kept his cards close to his chest when asked about what funds are available in January.

But the Baggies didn’t spend any money on transfer fees during the summer.

And the fact they are set to receive just £900,000 from Crystal Palace in compensation for Nathan Ferguson makes you feel money will again be tight.

But there is no point tasking Ismael with installing a philosophy at the club if he isn’t given the tools to do it. And he desperately needs a number nine.

Whether it’s stumping up the loan fee Orlando City want for Daryl Dike or it’s a case of scouring Europe to find someone similar – the players are out there.

But it’s up to the board to give Ismael the backing and funds he needs to get the striker that could transform this squad.

Without a bit of cash, it will be very difficult for the boss to find that striker good enough to fire Albion to the Premier League.

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