A numbers game for Valerien Ismael in search for more West Brom creativity

Albion need to improve in the final third with boss Valerien Ismael admitting his side is lacking a cutting edge.

West Bromwich Albion manager Valerien Ismael
West Bromwich Albion manager Valerien Ismael

With opposing teams having found a way to nullify the Frenchman’s high-pressing game, the Baggies have laboured to draws against Millwall, Derby and Preston North End in their last three outings.

Ismael is intent on playing three at the back with Albion having lined up in his favoured 3-4-3 system in every game this season.

Now, though, they are starting to look a bit stuck in it.

While in charge of Barnsley, Ismael would tweak the system depending on who the Tykes were facing.

Here we look at some of the options the boss might explore as he bids to add more creativity and spark to his frontline.

3-4-1-2

Linking midfield and attack has been an issue for the Baggies.

Ismael’s side has looked at its most dangerous when they have got the ball wide and sent crosses into the box.

But through the middle, they have created very little with the team lacking a player who can put his foot on the ball and pick a pass.

At Barnsley, there were times when Ismael would alter his team’s shape to play two out-and-out strikers and a number 10.

Following the departure of Matheus Pereira, Albion don’t have a natural player for that position.

But the fit-again Robert Snodgrass has played there before – as has Callum Robinson, who tends to be at his best when operating a bit deeper.

Plus playing two central strikers would also get more bodies in the box for Albion’s wing-backs to aim at when they are sending in crosses.

3-4-2-1

As well as experimenting with one number 10 at Barnsley, there were times when Ismael operated with two.

It’s the system Chelsea are now using to great effect.

And Albion could get some joy with it if they deploy Robinson and Snodgrass in those roles.

Robinson will naturally drift to the left and Snodgrass to the right meaning there is still the potential to create overloads out wide.

Most importantly, though, it would give the opposition something to think about with Albion having simply become too predicable in their last three games.

3-5-2

While Albion’s wing-backs have sent numerous crosses into the box, a lot of those deliveries have come from deep.

With just two central midfielders in the 3-4-3, those players have a huge responsibility to provide an attacking threat while also not getting caught out of position.

Adding another central midfielder into the mix, though, would allow skipper Jake Livermore to sit deeper and provide greater protection to the back three.

And that should allow the likes of Darnell Furlong, Conor Townsend and Adam Reach a bit more creative licence and hopefully encourage them to hit the byline more.

3-4-3

Alternatively, there are reasons why Ismael could simply keep things the same.

The boss pointed out after the draw at Preston North End that it was the Baggies final pass and cross that was lacking.

They consistently got into dangerous areas. It was just that, when it mattered, their quality deserted them. Sharpen up and they will score more goals in this system.

The formation also allows Ismael to continue playing Grady Diangana – who looks to be gradually getting back to his best form.

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