Valerien Ismael looking for balance among defensive trio

Valerien Ismael has explained why he feels it’s important to have a left-footed centre-back on the left and a right-footed centre-back on the right of his back three.

Following his appointment as Albion boss, the Frenchman swooped to bring in Matt Clarke on loan from Brighton.

The left-footed centre-back was the bosses second summer capture – behind left-footed central midfielder Alex Mowatt.

Clarke impressed in Albion’s first two games of the season before picking up hamstring injury during the win at Blackburn last month.

And when fellow centre-back Dara O’Shea – who can play on either side – injured his ankle, Ismael immediately entered the free agent market to sign Kean Bryan, another left-footed player.

Albion’s boss is so intent on playing a left-footer on the left side of his back three that wing-back Conor Townsend has been moved to centre-back in recent weeks.

And that has meant, despite being an out-and-out centre-back, Cedric Kipre has had to make do with a place on the bench.

“It’s about balance and the build-up for clearances,” Ismael said when asked why he wants a left-footed defender on the left and a right footer on the right.

“When you have a naturally left-footed player on the left, they are able to play the ball more clinically.

“It allows us to have better quality in transition.

“Or if we are in possession, if he is under pressure on the ball it will be easier to go wide than if he has to cut in onto the right foot.

“It’s easier to press a right-footed centre-back on the left-side because normally he is weak on his left foot than if you have got a left-footed centre-back.

“It makes sense for us in our philosophy.

“It was the reason we took quickly the decision to have two centre-backs who are left-footed.

“They can be difficult to find in the market.

“But this was a chance to do the right thing for the philosophy.”

In total, Ismael has signed four left-footed played with Adam Reach joining Clarke, Bryan and Mowatt.

“We have taken a lot of left-footed players,” he added. “We needed to find the right balance.”

Meanwhile, the Frenchman said Bryan is edging closer to making his Albion debut.

The defender arrived at The Hawthorns without having had a proper pre-season after he opted to leave Sheffield United to become a free agent.

But he featured for Albion’s under-23s against Villa on Friday.

And Ismael says the defender is getting close to being fit enough for the first team. “He (Bryan) played with the under-23s,” the boss said.

“We have raised the intensity in his workload.

“I think he is on the right way, but we don’t want to rush him and take any risks.

“We need to get that feeling that he is ready to compete and help us.

“At the minute we have found a solution. We have some time.

“We are happy at the minute, the improvement in the training sessions, the understanding of our way to play.

“The under-23s play the same way as us so it was a good test for him.”

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