Defensive options are far from clear for West Brom

Kieran Gibbs was today aiming to prove himself ready for a recall to Albion’s starting XI for tomorrow’s Premier League clash with Crystal Palace.

Kieran Gibbs of West Bromwich Albion. (AMA)
Kieran Gibbs of West Bromwich Albion. (AMA)

The 31-year-old is Baggies boss Slaven Bilic’s preferred choice to replace Conor Townsend after the latter was ruled out for between four to six weeks with a knee injury.

But there remains a question mark over Gibbs’ own fitness following away from the squad while self-isolating with coronavirus.

The former Arsenal man returned to training earlier this week and Bilic will leave any decision over his participation until as late as possible.

Club captain Jake Livermore is another who could return, though he has only trained since midweek after missing Albion’s last two matches while suffering with the virus.

Bilic yesterday joked a member of the media should “bring their boots” when asked on his plans if Gibbs is not available, though the Baggies boss does have options.

Fielding either Dara O’Shea or Matt Phillips at left wing-back would appear the most likely, while a switch of formation is also possible, even though Bilic may be reluctant to move away from a system which has delivered his team’s most consistent results of the season.

“I’m not happy of course, it’s four weeks (for Conor), but I was afraid that it’d be longer,” said Bilic.

“When I saw him limping off, he’d never do that. He is one of them that’d play with half a leg.

“But it is what it is, he’s going to be back soon and we have other players who can step into that position. There is no crying. Injuries are a part of the game.”

Even so, it is frustrating timing for an Albion team who were finally beginning to find their feet in the top flight.

Bilic described last weekend’s win over Sheffield United as like “jumping on a wave” and the aim now is to stay there.

“We proved to ourselves we can do it,” he said. “We have to take it as a big boost but we also have to stay humble because we are no way good enough to just walk out on the pitch and win.

“We have an opportunity to have a chance of momentum and at the moment you can feel we are very confident. We have to stay focused and the ground, which the players are.

“We have to use this opportunity to make sure the momentum lasts as long as possible.”

One area Albion are certainly aiming to improve is in attack. Despite the undoubted improvement in performances over recent weeks, Conor Gallagher’s winner against the Blades was one of only two goals the Baggies have scored in their last seven matches.

Tomorrow’s visitors Palace have also struggled in front of goal, failing to net in their last two matches and three of their last four on the road.

“We have to increase the numbers because we can’t rely on one chance, one goal,” said Bilic. “At the moment we don’t have that kind of quality.

“When you have 14 corners and so many shots on goal you expect to score a bit more.

“We are waiting for our front players to score. They are working hard, contributing to the game but we are still waiting for that.

“They have to stay patient, work hard and find that quality.

“If you don’t score you find more and more pressure on your goal. You are dropping more when you are winning 1-0 than when you are winning 2-0.

“If it is 1-0 you are a little bit too worried, too cautious. The more goals you score, it gives you more confidence.”

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News