West Brom welcome Millwall on Saturday having been on the road twice in the last week – Carlos Corberan is set to refresh things.
West Brom welcome Millwall to The Hawthorns for the third match in the space of eight days – and the second in four days – in what is the first schedule test posed to boss Carlos Corberan in this new Championship season. Albion’s 2-2 draw at Watford on Wednesday was their first midweek outing of the campaign and it’s a quick turnaround with the Lions visiting.
Corberan doesn’t have the luxury of all of his players available to him; Daryl Dike and Josh Maja being sidelined leaves Brandon Thomas-Asante as the only recognised centre forward who is fit and ready to be selected, but Albion in general are shaping up pretty well and all who played on Wednesday are ready to go again.
Albion boss Corberan has spoken of the importance of the impact from the bench to complement his starting XI and, aside from the lack of depth in the forward department, he is currently pleased with the options and personnel he has available to him – but the Championship rigours being what they are, changes to the starting line-up in order to maintain freshness in the coming months will be key.
There are a host of players ready to come in and perform when called upon, including new signing Pipa who awaits his first involvement, but primarily the trio who were introduced together on the hour mark at Watford appear to be the closest to the XI at the moment.
Not for any other reason than to maintain fresh legs where possible, Corberan could tweak things on the left side of the pitch; Conor Townsend has turned in a couple of decent cameos and his versatility allows for Corberan to mix it up should he see fit. Townsend can play on the left of a back three and as a left wing-back, so is able to accommodate either Matt Phillips or Erik Pieters.
With Albion at home and with Millwall expected to arrive at The Hawthorns and challenge their hosts to break them down while posing dangers on the counter attack and from set-pieces, Townsend could be quite an attack-minded change should Corberan reintroduce him and rely on him to produce and outlet on the left with the quality of his deliveries.
You could go Pieters-Townsend and rest Phillips, go Townsend-Phillips to bring more impetus and energy down the left or, a little less likely, is to play all three and name Phillips in attack ahead of another.
After indicating that he had plans to start Alex Mowatt at some point this week, Corberan stuck with Okay Yokuslu and Jayson Molumby at Watford. The latter was taken off after an hour but the former completed 90 minutes for the first time this season and at times looked more like himself.
“Without any type of doubt, there is a reason behind any minutes a player is playing,” Corberan said of Yokuslu. “When you player, or change a player, it can be for two reasons – physically, I was watching him suffering. He’s playing well, but physically the demanding of the game, or the fatigue, is not going to allow him to keep playing well – you need to change. Or, you’re watching the player not playing well. They’re the reasons you change a player.
“Maybe because the match demands a different profile of player – so there are three reasons. If the other day he completed 90 minutes, it’s because he was playing well, because the team needed him to keep playing and because he could keep the fatigue after some minutes. The three reasons tell me that he was improving from previous games. That’s the reason why he played the full game.”
Mowatt is expected to come in and play on the left of the midfield pair, along with one other – the natural option would be alongside Yokuslu, provided he is ready to go again, ahead of Molumby who would be coming up against his former club.
The clamour for many an Albion fan to see more of Sarmiento – indeed from the get go – is understandable and has been recognised by Corberan himself, who has been careful in his handling of the Brighton loanee. Sarmiento naturally catches the eye when he arrives on the scene in the second half of games because of his playing style, and he is in line to start here.
For who? Admittedly it’s a big call for Corberan to drop Wallace, who is the captain – although that of course doesn’t guarantee a spot – who was much better on Wednesday having scored and who is welcoming his former club to The Hawthorns (mind you, such sentiments ought to be discarded when preparing for such games).
John Swift, though, has been very good so far this season and, although Corberan feels as though he and Sarmiento have similar roles in the squad, he sees no issue in fielding the pair together. Or, more radically, he could play all three and leave sole striker Thomas-Asante on the bench from the off.