The logic behind signing Branislav Ivanovic looked confused at the time and he is yet to prove enough in a West Brom signing that suggests it could work out.
At his peak the Serbian was a fantastic right-back and remains a centre-back that can excel in a certain system. However, his signature showed a lack of ambition on the part of the Baggies and does not give them what they need at the centre of defence.
At The Hawthorns against Tottenham Hotspur, Slaven Bilic’s side were far better defensively in the absence of Ivanovic, handling a deadly front line of Gareth Bale, Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min pretty well.
Now of course, the switch to a back three made a difference and the extra centre-back changed the spaces in which the defenders were forced to operate. With Kyle Bartley covering, Dara O’Shea and Semi Ajayi were able to attack the ball and defend aggressively, something they excelled at.
Bartley has hardly been excellent so far this season and does not offer the same quality on the ball or experience as Ivanovic, but his lack of athleticism does not compromise the system Bilic is trying to embed.
Against Fulham, the West Brom back four sat so deep and this created huge gaps between the midfield and defence, compromising their efforts to press and stop Fulham passing between the lines.
Under Scott Parker, the Whites are renowned for lacking incisiveness, but West Brom made it too easy time after time. Unable to press up the field, Ivanovic is split from his midfield and it makes it too easy for Fulham to attack.
Against Spurs, where the Serbian missed out after testing positive for COVID-19, this problem was evident nowhere near as often. Now the change in system has something to do with this, but also the added athleticism and ability to cover in behind played a big part.
As stated above, Ivanovic is still a good player who can ably fit into a certain system. However, he seems very ill-fitted to the way that West Brom want to play under Bilic and it looks as though they invested in the wrong centre-back.
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