West Brom summer signing Branislav Ivanovic made his debut for the Baggies in Tuesday’s penalty loss to Brentford in the Carabao Cup.
It was the first chance for Baggies fans to see the Champions League winner in action, following the acquisition of the defender on a free transfer, following his departure from Zenit St Petersburg at the end of last season.
Ivanovic was deployed at centre back by Slaven Bilic, alongside Cedric Kipre. Bilic has stated that the Serbian was signed as a central defender, rather than a full back, where he played for Chelsea.
Some West Brom fans were unhappy when the Baggies were first linked to Ivanovic, raising concerns about his fitness, and the potential risk of signing a 36-year-old defender.
But on his first appearance the Serb slipped into the Baggies back line like he’d been there for years, spending much of his time on the pitch shouting and organising the defence with the type of authority you hold when you’ve won the Champions League and multiple Premier League titles.
He was a much needed cool head at the heart of West Brom’s defence, as Brentford caused some problems for the Baggies in the first half, and they could have easily taken the lead, but Ivanovic and the other defenders held strong.
The stats show that the ex-Chelsea man turned in a quality performance on his first Baggies outing. He won 83% of his aerial duels against Brentford, and made five interceptions during his hours work, as per Wyscout.
A new journey is set to start for the Serbian star 🇷🇸
— West Bromwich Albion (@WBA) September 22, 2020
Ivanovic also won 75% of his total attempted defensive duels across his 60-minute appearance, showing that he still has a quality that can be valuable to West Brom this season, as they look to stay in the Premier League
We saw signs of what Ivanovic will bring off the pitch as well as on it. He will be able to mentor young defenders such as Kipre, and learning from such a decorated and experienced player will massively improve their development.
Some fans were impressed with how Ivanovic played, with one even suggesting ‘Ivanovic will keep us up’, while another fan gave a more concise assessment of the Serbian’s debut, saying, ‘Excellent 60 minute debut for Ivanovic. Read the game well and was showing his leadership at the back, telling players where to run and go’.
But Ivanovic couldn’t get off to a winning start at the Hawthorns, with the Baggies losing to Brentford on penalties, with the score tied at 2-2 after 90 minutes.
West Brom twice took the lead, through Hal Robson-Kanu penalties, but the Bees stuck back first through a majestic overhead kick from Emiliano Marcondes, and then through a penalty of their own, dispatched by Marcus Forss.
The only player to not score in the shootout was Grady Diangana, who had his effort turned away by David Raya in the Brentford net, as West Brom’s Carabao Cup journey ended in the third round.
But if Ivanovic stays fit, he will only get better as he reacclimatises to English football, and if Tuesday’s performance was the Serbian starting as he means to go on, he will be a huge asset to Slaven Bilic and absolutely worth the risk.
The Baggies have a chance to pick up their first Premier League points of the season when Ivanovic’s former side Chelsea travel to the Hawthorns this weekend.
In other West Brom news, Report – Major update on 25y/o transfer stance amid mooted West Brom interest.