One of the overriding reflections after the closure of the transfer window – among a number of others – was whether or not West Bromwich Albion had left themselves short.
Did they have enough across the board to deal with the tribulations of Val-ball? Was there sufficient cover at right-wing back, and up front? More pertinently, were the players who the club did recruit this summer fit the bill for Valerien Ismael?
The Frenchman is very choosy about the sort of player he wishes to work with. Players were offered up to him throughout the window, names that might’ve got the fans excited in some instances even, but they didn’t fit the manager’s process. So that was the end of it.
So when Albion brought in Jayson Molumby, Adam Reach and Jordan Hugill, for example, you know that, for a variety of reasons, he’s sanctioned those deals. The numbers tell him that they can deliver, and complement the existing group which he inherited upon arrival.
“This is the good thing for me with my philosophy, I don’t need the most expensive player or the best player, I just need the right player for the position – we need to find the right players.”
That quote still stands out from his unveiling. The players that Albion have recruited are not necessarily the best players – to the naked eye – they could’ve got their hands on. Reach was released by a relegated club. Molumby has been on loan in the last couple of years, but has never really broke into the Brighton team. Hugill started just a handful of matches for Norwich last season.
There is an element of Moneyball to the transfer process – Ismael and his staff look beyond the names and the obvious numbers to ensure that they fit into the bigger jigsaw.
In the early stages of this season, which has begun in a mightily impressive fashion, we can already agree that Alex Mowatt and Matt Clarke – when fit – have been so far successful signings who fit in seamlessly to the 3-4-3 system.
Molumby might have to bide his time while Mowatt and Jake Livermore take firm grasps of the midfield shirts, but Hugill could even start against Millwall when the Baggies’ season resumes next weekend.
As Callum Robinson makes a return, and we cross everything that Dara O’Shea’s injury isn’t as serious as first feared, Albion’s squad – complemented by the young players who Ismael is excited by and willing to count on – is looking a little healthier in depth.
Now, we’ll see whether the club’s recruitment policy has paid dividends.