More than a few eyebrows were raised when West Brom announced the signing of Branislav Ivanovic on a free transfer last summer.
The then 36-year-old former Chelsea defender had spent the last few years playing in Russia for Zenit St Petersberg before leaving the club upon the expiration of his contract.
Slaven Bilic jumped at the chance to sign the veteran and waxed lyrical about his new man when speaking to the Albion website about his arrival.
Bilic said, “He’s a great addition for us, a team who are newly promoted in the Premier League. He ticks all the boxes for us. We’re delighted. He adds quality and experience on the pitch and off the pitch.
“So it is not only him, it is him plus the influence he will have on not just defenders but the whole team around him. That’s why we targeted him as one of our prime targets.”
It is fair to say that his Hawthorns career has not panned out as Bilic hoped with the defender now completely cut adrift under Sam Allardyce.
On his 37th birthday (Monday), we look at what’s gone wrong for Ivanovic and how his signing perfectly sums up our club in 2021.
To date, Ivanovic has made 13 appearances for West Brom with 11 of these coming in the Premier League.
He needed time to get fit at the start of the season so he wasn’t thrown in straight away as he made his league debut in the 0-0 draw with Burnley on October 19.
On the face of it, it seemed as though he did exactly what he was supposed to do in this first league outing. He came in and kept a clean sheet, Albion’s first of the season.
However, the next two games came as a rude awakening to the defender after being at fault for Brighton’s goal as we drew 1-1 at the Amex and he was all over the shop as we lost 2-0 at Craven Cottage.
That draw against Brighton was a terrible individual performance from Ivanovic as, according to Wyscout, he only won 55% of his defensive duels on the night.
That simply isn’t good enough for a Premier League defender playing against a relegation rival.
It just went downhill from there for the Champions League winner.
He missed the 1-0 loss to Tottenham after picking up COVID-19 before returning to the side for our first win of the season against Sheffield United.
Not that he can take any credit for that as, according to Wyscout, he won none of his four defensive duels against the Blades.
He didn’t win a tackle all night against one of the worst sides in Premier League history.
He did keep his place for the next few games as we returned to losing ways and once Big Sam came in he was offered real hope.
Allardyce spoke of the need for Premier League experience in his side and Ivanovic has that in spades.
He was given a chance by the new boss but he couldn’t take it as he proved to be utterly ineffective in the 4-0 home loss to Arsenal.
He hasn’t played since that thrashing and with good reason.
Ivanovic has never looked like he’s up to the pace of the Premier League and is anyone really surprised by that?
He’d been playing in an inferior league for a few years before he came back to the English top-flight so it was always doubtful that he still had it in him to defend at the top level.
We needed experience at the back this summer and we did get it with Ivanovic.
But we also needed quality and we didn’t get any which has led to our defence being the leakiest in the Premier League this year.
The deal to sign Ivanovic sums up our club at the moment.
The things we do, on paper, look to be good moves but in reality, anyone with more than a few brain cells should’ve seen that what we are doing is self-destructive.
Signing Ivanovic, getting Big Sam in, backing him in the transfer market. All good moves on paper but in reality, nothing has really changed.
We look forward to the inevitable statement in the summer saying that Ivanovic has left the club by mutual consent.
In other West Brom news, Albion have frozen out this player but it’s not for sporting reasons.