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Corberan's fine work continues to mask off-field troubles - Interview
Monday, 23rd Oct 2023 13:30 by Clive Whittingham

Carlos Corberan's record since taking over at West Brom a year ago is formidable, particularly when set against escalating financial and ownership worries behind the scenes - Matt Graham is our regular Baggies contributor...

How's the season been so far for the Baggies? Feels like when you're good you're really good but not a lot of consistency there...

It has been alright, all things told. This time last year we were bottom of the league, so there has been considerable improvement. The Albion are sitting just outside the playoffs, we’ve had some excellent results, and there is enough optimism to think that by the end of the season we’ll (just) still be in contention. However, you’ve hit the nail on the head there about consistency. The team have put in some fantastic performances, most notably scoring four against Middlesborough and Preston, which demonstrated what we can achieve when everything clicks. However, we haven’t yet really put together a positive run of results which is frustrating, especially because we’re drawing too many games. Furthermore, after the Boro and Preston wins, we didn’t build on those performances, by losing in stoppage time to Huddersfield, and then labouring to a 1-0 win against a truly awful Sheffield Wednesday. Our next five games are favourable fixtures, and we really need to get at least 8-10 points to stay in contention with the top six. Getting that consistency right will be crucial.

Baggies in the league…
Blackburn 2-1 West Brom Markanday 20, Leonard 22 – Phillips 50
West Brom 3-2 Swansea Ajayi 18, Rushworth og 50, Swift pen 64 – Darling 74, Wood 80
Leeds 1-1 West Brom Ayling 72 – Thomas-Asante 52
West Brom 4-2 Boro Kipre 22, Swift 28, Thomas-Asante 47, Sarmiento 90 – Lath 29, Forss 85
West Brom 1-2 Huddersfield Swift 52 – Burgzorg 33, Rudoni 90
Bristol City 0-0 West Brom
Watford 2-2 West Brom Ince 3, Martins 23 – Swift 14, Wallace 17
West Brom 0-0 Millwall
Preston 0-4 West Brom Furlong 4, Mowatt 29, Phillips 62, Bartley 87
West Brom 1-0 Sheff Wed Swift 13
Birmingham 3-1 West Brom Bacuna pen 23, Sanderson 38, Gardner 87 – Swift 5
West Brom 0-0 Plymouth

Current ownership/financial/FFP situation? What circle of Dante's hell are you guys in at the moment?

Everything is still up in the air at the moment. The club have indicated that in January, as in the summer, any player is available for sale to lower the wage bill, and to bring in funds to keep the lights on; a far from ideal situation. The summer discussions of crypto bros taking us over thankfully went quiet. However, the managing director Mark Miles, did announce that he expects a full sale and/or significant investment to be reached by the end of the season, with a rumoured asking price of around £30m (a long way off the £200m Lai originally wanted). Perhaps more encouragingly, interested parties aren’t touting themselves in the media, and there are several NDAs in place, which would hint that some of the discussions are quite far advanced. The club is in statis, and financial catastrophe still hangs over the future of the Albion.

Is there much of a future to look forward to here without a new owner?

Without new ownership the Albion are in trouble. It is as simple as that. Without investment or a change in strategy, the team will be gutted, and it will be very difficult to compete in the Championship. The club are already restricted to freebies and loans, and the pool of quality players available would shrink again because of the inability to match wage expectations. We really are banking on Lai selling the club to improve the short- and medium-term outlook.

Feelings on Carlos Corberan a year in?

Without Corberan, West Brom would be screwed. He has transformed the atmosphere around the club. When rumours of Leeds interest in him started flying during the summer there was palpable dread among the fanbase. The reason why we improved so much last season was due to Corberan’s coaching style and attention to detail. The change in attitude among the players was noticeable. Against the backdrop of ownership problems, the lack of resources, and the sale of players, Corberan has worked a minor miracle with West Brom. There are some criticisms about his use of substitutions and at time lack of urgency in the playing style, but these are all caveated by what is available to him. I am a big fan of Corberan, although I am under no illusion that another club will probably try and poach him sooner rather than later.

Tell us about your summer transfer window - what was done? What was left undone?

It was a challenging summer transfer window with the club taking the stance that every player was available. In terms of planning and continuity it was not a great situation to be in. The club sold Dara O’Shea to Burnley, released Jake Livermore, David Button, Kean Bryan, and Tom Rogic, and have loaned out seven players including Karlan Grant and Taylor Gardner-Hickman. We did also fend off interest for Alex Palmer, Jayson Molumby, Grady Diangana, and Josh Griffiths. But an already small squad was trimmed significantly. As a result, strength in-depth is a major weakness.

All in coming players were frees and loans. We signed right-back Pipa on loan from Ludogorets Razgrad to give some competition to Darnell Furlong, and also loaned the talented winger/forward Jeremy Sarimento from Brighton. An eye-catching free agent was Josh Maja who’d left Bordeaux in the summer.

However, what was left undone was pretty much everything. The team needed more depth to compete over a gruelling Championship season, which wasn’t achieved. We’re less than a quarter of the way into the campaign and Swift, Maja, and Sarimento, have now joined Daryl Dike on the injury list. As a consequence, there is a lack of guile and creativity in the midfield, and our forward line relies heavily on Brandon Thomas-Asante who is an energetic player but doesn’t score enough goals. It does mean that the bench is weak, giving Corberan very little room to alter games.

Ins >>> Josh Maja, 24, CF, Bordeaux, Free >>> Jeremy Sarmiento, 21, AM, Brighton Loan >>> Pipa, 25, RB, Ludogrets, Loan

Outs >>> Dara O’Shea, 24, CB, Burnley, £7m >>> Jake Livermore, 33, DM, Watford, Free >>> Tom Rogic, 30, CM, Released >>> Kean Bryan, 26, CB, Released >>> Karlan Grant, 25, CF, Cardiff, Loan >>> Zac Ashworth, 20, LB, Bolton, Loan >>> David Button, 34, GK, Reading, Free >>> Taylor Gardner-Hickman, 21, RB, Bristol City, Loan >>> Ethan Ingram, 20, RB, Salford, Loan

Stand out players and weak links in the team?

This season John Swift has been the player we’d hope he’d be last year. In the opening games Swift has acted as the main creator from midfield, driven the team forward, and is our top scorer. Swift was injured in the derby defeat to Birmingham City, which is a blow, and will now affect the way we play. The last few games Alex Mowatt has put in some strong performances from midfield. Our keeper Alex Palmer has also regularly kept us in games with some superb saves.

The weak link is the consistency across the defence. Last season, the improved performances coincided with keeping lots of clean sheets, although to be fair we’ve had four so far. Yet, we’ve been conceding way too many, regularly shipping two a game, not helped by some poor defensive play. Also, our goals rely heavily on the midfield stepping up, because the injury ravaged forward line doesn’t have the firepower there.

Revised expectations for the season?

In my preseason review for LFW I predicted midtable. We are comfortable ensconced in those positions, and I’d be surprised if things dramatically by the end of the season.

Links >>> Official Website >>> Independent West Brom forum — Message Board >>> Boing — Blog >>> Express and Star — Local Paper >>> Birmingham Mail — Local Paper

The Twitter/Instagram @loftforwords, @SAhistoryMatt

Pictures — Action Images

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TacticalR added 22:58 - Oct 23
Thanks to Matt.

It sounds like West Brom have got problems, but not as bad as our problems. At least with Corberán fans have something to cling to.

Swift and Mowatt always play well against us, so it's a relief that at least Swift is out.
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