Carlos Corberan’s appointment as Albion’s new manager two weeks ago marked the start of yet another era at West Brom.
It’s already the third era since our relegation from the Premier League in 2021 and the seventh since our relegation in 2018, so it’s no wonder so many fans felt lethargic at the prospect of another new manager.
Things looked even gloomier after Corberan’s first game in-charge against Sheffield United, which ended in a fully-deserved two-nil loss at The Hawthorns.
The former Huddersfield boss seemed poised to make the same mistakes as his predecessors in relying on Albion’s ‘old guard’ after selecting Jake Livermore and Matt Phillips.
Since that game, we’ve seen a completely rejuvenated side. Albion have been both solid in defence and intent in attack since that defeat. Now, West Brom look a dangerous side as we head into the World Cup break with fast-building momentum.
Here’s three things we’ve learned about Corberan’s West Brom:
#1 Don’t write off the ‘old-guard’Embed from Getty Images
This one is personal for me. If you’ve ever listened to the WBAReport Podcast (if you haven’t, you need to), then you will have heard me lamenting the likes of Kyle Bartley, Jake Livermore and Matt Phillips for their stale performances in recent months.
While the trio can’t be blamed for the club’s demise, nor the failure of previous managers, they have arguably represented the stasis we’ve found ourselves in as a club during the last 18 months.
Every manager that came in turned to the likes of Livermore and Bartley in the hope that their experience would count on the pitch, guide the team through a period of instability and ultimately, get some wins on the board.
Under Steve Bruce, and arguably even under Valérien Ismaël, that didn’t happen.
Livermore, for one, had a habit of getting sent off as soon as a manager came in, while Bartley and Phillips saw significant drops in form.
So when Corberan came in and seemed to want to lean on the experience of older players, we all thought we knew what was coming. Yet I, like so many others, were wrong.
Two of the team’s best performers in recent weeks have been Phillips and Bartley. Even against Sheffield United, Phillips was one of our brightest players, form that continued in the wins against Blackpool and QPR.
Bartley, on the other hand, has been at the heart of a defence that has achieved three clean sheets on the bounce. He’s also nabbed himself two goals in two games, which isn’t bad.
All of that is to say that we, as a fanbase, were too quick to write off the club’s more experienced players. We have a young squad, with the likes of Brandon Thomas-Asante and Grady Diangana still yet to reach their peak, so we should use the experience we have.
I’m glad Corberan has the nous to recognise that.
#2 Results over performances, to an extentEmbed from Getty Images
Excluding the Sheffield United performance, Albion have performed pretty well. So when I say, ‘results over performances’, what I mean is that we haven’t witnessed any swashbuckling 4-0 thrashings, as many fans would like to see or even expect in the Championship.
That is something that fans became accustomed to under Slaven Bilic’s reign when Albion were promoted in 2021, so for some, it has even become synonymous with success. Corberan’s Albion, so far, have shown that doesn’t have to be the case.
Our first victory under the Spaniard came from an Okay Yokuslu tap-in five minutes from time against Blackpool. Our win against QPR, meanwhile, came from a Kyle Bartley header with 20 minutes to go.
While today’s two-nil victory over Stoke was more convincing, it still shows us an assured side to Albion that’s been missing for years.
It is refreshing to see an Albion side that comes across as defensively solid whilst being simultaneously capable of winning games.
#3 Corberan is a real tacticianEmbed from Getty Images
When it looked like Corberan would become Albion’s manager, there seemed to be little to get excited about. That wasn’t really his fault – we were looking at the prospect of yet another manager, seemingly trapped by the unwillingness of our owner to neither invest nor move on.
There is also no denying that many of us wanted someone with a little bit more experience. While Corberan had impressed as Marcelo Bielsa’s right-hand man at Leeds and by getting Huddersfield to the play-off final last year, this certainly wasn’t the Hollywood appointment many of us wanted (in Sean Dyche or Chris Wilder).
But after his first four games in charge, we have learned that Corberan is a real tactician, the first we’ve had at The Hawthorns in a very long time.
Football under Bruce was stale from start to finish. He tried to get the team playing attacking football, which we saw – at best – in glimpses. Many of us thought Ismaël was the tactician we had been crying out for only for his philosophy of ‘intensity at all costs’ to crash and burn six months in (who’d have thought?).
Under Corberan, regardless of his inexperience, we seem to have a manager who knows what he is doing. Albion look ruthless at both ends of the pitch and are no doubt playing to their strengths with pace down the flanks and with set pieces.
It’s clear this has resonated with the players, with the rejuvenated Bartley commenting on Corberan’s ‘real appetite for football’, reported the Express & Star.
He said: “His tactical knowledge is absolutely different class. It’s something like I’ve never seen in my career. Him and his staff have been absolutely fantastic since they’ve come in.
“As a collective, we’re all looking forward to the break, he can put his ideas across to us on the training pitch, I think you’ll see a real outfit when the World Cup finishes and we get back out there.”
With Albion winning yet again against Stoke today, the prospect of us getting to see the ‘real’ West Brom on display is incredibly exciting, one that has never felt so real.