Valerien Ismael: West Brom need to box clever

It’s like a boxer that doesn’t want to fight, an opponent that runs away.

Valerien Ismael Head Coach / Manager of West Bromwich Albion.
Valerien Ismael Head Coach / Manager of West Bromwich Albion.

It’s been a difficult week for Albion after they were held to draws by both Millwall and Derby at home.

In both those matches, the opponents arrived at The Hawthorns with a clear plan to frustrate Valerien Ismael’s side.

They sat back, they showed very little ambition – and they got rid of the ball quickly so Albion were unable to press in the way their manager demands.

Against Millwall, the Baggies failed to find an answer.

And they struggled again for 45 minutes against Derby.

In the second-half, though, Ismael tweaked his game plan.

The Baggies played a touch slower and with a bit more composure.

And it led to them creating numerous goalscoring opportunities.

In the end a combination of bad luck, poor finishing and excellent goalkeeping meant they were unable to break the deadlock.

But the important thing for Ismael is that they found a way to dominate the game – even though their opponents continued to do everything they could to frustrate.

“We have analysed the last two games with the guys intensively to recognise what the game plan now is from the opponent,” the head coach said.

“It is clear. The opponent is happy with one point. They don’t want to play.

“You can imagine it’s like a boxing match. We want to fight, we are on the front foot, we are ready.

“And the opponent runs away, they don’t want to fight. That’s the situation at the minute.

“But the second half against Derby showed the solution we have found.

“We need to perform like that, with that intensity, from the first minute in every game.

“Now we know exactly what is going on with our opponent.

“It is still early in the season. But we have more clarity.”

Asked exactly what he tweaked for the second half against Derby, Ismael said: “I don’t want to give all the solutions away.

“But it’s all about body language, body attitude, intensity.

“When you look at the numbers from the first half to the second half they are completely different.

“The same game, completely different numbers.

“The same game plan from the opponent, we raised the numbers and it’s a completely different game.

“We found some solutions with the guys and now we are on the right way.”

Albion ultimately had 25 shots on goal against Derby. Fulham are the only team in the Championship to have created more chances based on expected goals statistics.

But ahead of today’s match at Preston, Ismael says it’s imperative his team becomes more clinical.

“We need to score – when you create so many chances you need to score,” he said.

“We need to work on it at the minute, I think in all the games we have created a lot of chances but we need a lot of chances to score one goal.

“We need to reduce that percentage. We need to be more clinical.

“If we get one or two chances we need to score to make sure we open the game up and to give us more confidence.

“It is normal during the course of the season that you have to adapt, you use your brain and find a solution. Now we go again.”

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