West Brom players with a point to prove

It’s always important to make a good first impression.

Jake Livermore of West Bromwich Albion during the pre-match warm up (AMA)
Jake Livermore of West Bromwich Albion during the pre-match warm up (AMA)

But there are some Albion players who will report for pre-season training today knowing they’ve really got a point to prove to new boss Valerien Ismael, writes Joseph Masi.

The head coach is known to play with a counter-pressing philosophy that relies on intensity and energy.

His style – which he describes as ‘vertical football’ – is unique and Albion’s players will have to adapt.

For some members of the squad, that should be easy.

Semi Ajayi, Darnell Furlong, Conor Townsend, Matt Phillips and Callum Robinson all – on paper at least – appear to have the tools needed to thrive under the former Bayern Munich defender.

But there are others who will have to prove they have what it takes to thrive when it comes to Ismael’s methods.

At the back, Kyle Bartley and Dara O’Shea both ended last season with credit in the bank despite Albion’s struggles in the Premier League.

But they are not as quick as Ajayi. And Ismael will demand they play in a high defensive line.

Bartley and O’Shea did play with a high line under former boss Slaven Bilic.

But that was in a back four rather than the 3-4-3 system Ismael tends to prefer. Now, despite, their many strengths, they are going to have to show they can play the Ismael way.

There are similar questions in central midfield. Jake Livermore was an outstanding box-to-box midfielder during the 2019/20 promotion winning campaign. But he hasn’t been the same player since football returned following its suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

If Livermore can recapture his old form, he’ll be a player tailor-made for Ismael. He’ll be 32 in November, though, so will have to prove he still boasts that energy.

Romaine Sawyers, Livermore’s midfield partner in that promotion winning season, will also have to make a good first impression on Ismael.

His languid style often disguises the amount of running he actually does.

But he too will have to prove he can play in a counter-pressing side.

Ismael also likes to get the ball forward quickly whereas Sawyers tends to be more intricate and patient with his play. So that will be another area where the 29-year-old has to adapt.

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