Notification Settings

Subscribe to one or all notification sources from this one place.


Subscribe to our newsletter to get the day's top stories sent directly to you.

Analysis: Rare West Brom off-day raises concern over depth

Carlos Corberan pulled no punches as he asked questions of his players’ mentality and work rate in Saturday’s miserable 3-0 FA Cup exit at Bristol City.

Sam Bell of Bristol City clears a shot from Brandon Thomas-Asante of West Bromwich Albion (Photo by Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images).
Sam Bell of Bristol City clears a shot from Brandon Thomas-Asante of West Bromwich Albion (Photo by Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images).

Albion got precisely what they deserved from their latest trip down the M5 with a performance that, if not the worst of the Spanish head coach’s three months, it was certainly close.

How different it was to the same trip just over a month earlier, where the Baggies marched on in the Championship with an extremely comfortable league success at Ashton Gate.

This time, the FA Cup fourth round tie was taken away from Corberan’s troops by the half-hour mark. Goals that would not look out of place on Sunday park pitches had the Robins flying high and Albion did nothing to peg them back.

A travelling crowd of almost 3,500 Baggies were let down and deserved more. It is the first time that can be said of Corberan’s wonderful tenure so far.

It was hardly the shock of the century to see Albion bow out. Bristol City have got their act together of late – and haven’t lost since a schooling from Corberan’s men on Boxing Day – and were too strong on the day.

Corberan mixed his side up more. Five changes in all from the defeat at Burnley as the head coach offered yet another Cup opportunity to squad players who struggled to pull up many trees at the first time of asking at non-league Chesterfield in round three.

David Button returned in goal. Two changes in the back four saw Adam Reach and Semi Ajayi introduced. Further up the pitch, Tom Rogic and Karlan Grant were given the nod.

It was an opportunity most, if not all, let slip through their fingers.

That is not to single out the handful of changes for not stepping up and showing they have what it takes to deliver.

The other six included in Corberan’s side, many of whom have enjoyed a stellar few months of regular wins, took their feet off the gas and were suitably punished.

Nigel Pearson’s City were happy to work the counter-attack with willing and pacy young forwards running at Albion time and again. They were handed chance after chance due to the visitors’ woeful use of the ball, something very much noted by the head coach afterwards.

But, surely even more of a concern for the Spaniard was how some of his squad were not in the right place mentally for the task at hand.

It is impossible to say why, but when the boss is so quick to call that out in the first answer of his post-match press conference it sums up Albion’s issues in the south west.

Any team will struggle to win any game of football if they are not in the right place mentally. Even a few players a couple of per cent below where their attitude and application should be sends the pack of cards tumbling.

Then, there was the lack of ability. Albion used the ball dreadfully and were terribly sluggish without it. They missed any sort of zip or intensity – the Robins cruised to the fifth round.

Yet more damning in Corberan’s assessment was when he described the tie as a chance to strengthen the squad through important match minutes – but most spurned their chance to impress.

It brings the spotlight swiftly back on the debate surrounding the strength in depth, or lack of, in Albion’s squad.

Corberan was focused on bolstering his central midfield options in the final days of the window – prior to tomorrow night’s 11pm deadline – but the surgery for Matt Phillips and subsequent substantial rehab has forced the club’s hand and a beeline for another wide option.

The head coach may have seen that neither Grant nor Grady Diangana have shown convincingly or consistently they can step up in Phillips’ absence.

The mentality and poor technical and physical levels in Bristol would surely have shocked Corberan, but not to the point where he will lose faith in the squad that have generally performed so well for him.

But it unquestionably does need a shot in the arm via the transfer window before its closure tomorrow.

Albion were working on a deal to bring Lewis O’Brien on loan to The Hawthorns from Nottingham Forest over the weekend.

Anybody who has seen O’Brien, 24, in action in recent years knows he is a top performer in the division – Corberan knows it more than most of his former Huddersfield star.

Should Forest sanction his release, Albion will be somewhere near the front of the queue and it feels that signature could be a squad and supporter-boosting lift to lock down a play-off spot.

But another wide attacking reinforcement would go well. Corberan has deserved the backing and his squad could do with a lift, now is the time to provide that and ensure a best possible shot at the play-offs.

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News