Take an inside look at Reading’s upcoming opponent, West Bromwich Albion, with the Express and Star's West Brom reporter Joseph Masi...

Talk us through West Brom’s season thus far…

They appointed Valerien Ismael in the summer and he’s got a very specific philosophy and he’s got unwavering belief in it. It’s a very very high press, high-intensity philosophy. He installed that over preseason and they started like a steam train, they were absolutely brilliant the first five or six games. Everything was going really well and then what happened is that people sort of found them out.

They realised that basically, a team can’t press you if they have the ball. The opposition has to have the ball for you to press them, it’s as simple as that. And Ismael said in the summer ‘I want an out of possession team’. So teams very quickly realised that if they let Albion have possession if they give them 65-70% of possession and say ‘Can you break us down?’, that’s where Albion have struggled.

Reading Chronicle: West Brom celebrate scoring against Cardiff City. ImagE by: PAWest Brom celebrate scoring against Cardiff City. ImagE by: PA

Some weeks they did, they got the goals they needed but other weeks they were frustrated. And that pattern continued for a fair few weeks. And that’s why they were in the top two but then they fell away and Bournemouth and Fulham overtook them.

They had a little bit of a wobble and then got back on track last week at Coventry. The issue now is when they’re allowed to press, they’ve very very good. But they’re also having to learn how to become a team with an awful lot of possession and how to break teams down. But they’re getting there, they’re on the right track.

Speaking of Valerien Ismael, how would you evaluate his tenure so far?

I think he’s on track to where he expects to be. They’d like to be a little bit closer to Fulham and Bournemouth but Ismael knows better than anyone just how long the Championship season is. When you think about where he got Barnsley to in the space of six months…it’s absolutely incredible. So he really does know there’s a long way to go.

Reading Chronicle: West Brom boss Valerien Ismael instructing his side from the touchline. Image by: PAWest Brom boss Valerien Ismael instructing his side from the touchline. Image by: PA

His style of play has divided fans. Loads of people are behind it but others are just not into that high-intensity…they want a possession-based team. Everyone wants to watch Pep Guardiola football at the end of the day and there are some fans who are just not into the style. But they were more not into when results were wobbling, everyone was on board when results were great. 

They desperately need a striker. If they can string a few results together and get that man in January…then I think everyone will be on board with Ismael, there will be a good feeling around the place.

After coming down last season, the aim for West Brom must promotion?

Yeah, absolutely. When you come down from the Premier League you get two years of parachute payments so the absolute minimum really is to get out in two years, but you want to do it in one, you want to get out as soon as possible. They thoroughly expect to be competing for automatic promotion - it looks like a three-horse race at this point. The striker is key, the only difference between Fulham, Bournemouth, and West Brom is the striker.

Players likely to cause Reading problems?

Karlan Grant


Age: 24

Squad #: 18

Karlan really is on a hot streak. He’s got nine goals this season and he scored at Coventry last weekend. He’s the main source of goals at the minute. 

Reading Chronicle: Karlan Grant goes for goal against Birmingham. Image by: PAKarlan Grant goes for goal against Birmingham. Image by: PA

Grady Diangana

Attacking Midfielder

Age: 23

Squad #: 11

He’s a wonderfully talented player. He was outstanding when we went up a couple of years ago under Slaven Bilic but he struggled a bit in the Prem last year and he hasn’t really gotten his form back. No one doubts his ability, he really is an outstanding talent so we’re just waiting for him to turn on the tap if you like, and if he does he’ll be without a doubt one of the outstanding players in the division.

Reading Chronicle: The talented Diangana is yet to find his form this season. Image by: PAThe talented Diangana is yet to find his form this season. Image by: PA

Alex Mowatt


Age: 26

Squad #: 27

He’s been fantastic in centre-midfield. He really is everything you want in an Ismael central-midfielder. Good on the ball but his work-rate is fantastic. Very well-rounded player.

Reading Chronicle: Alex Mowatt has excelled since arriving at the Hawthorns from Barnsley. Image: PAAlex Mowatt has excelled since arriving at the Hawthorns from Barnsley. Image: PA

What are the strengths and weaknesses of this West Brom team?

The strengths are that they’re ridiculously good defensively. They’ve conceded the joint-least goals with Fulham and Bournemouth, but their expected goals against is the best in the division. They really do restrict their opponents to very little.

All the issues this season have been in the final third. My opinion is that 75% of them would be fixed with a centre-forward like Daryl Dike who Ismael had at Barnsley last season. They have had a slight issue with the quality of chances they’ve created. In a couple of games, they’ve had like 22 shots on goal, but they’ve only created two or three quality chances. And because they don’t really have that clinical centre-forward those chances have passed them by. They need someone who’s more clinical and they need to create a few more actual clear-cut chances.

Score Prediction?

I’m expecting Reading to sit back, put 11 men behind the ball and ask Albion if they can break them down. I think Albion are in a good place but these games are always tight. I’m feeling optimistic so I’ll go 2-0 Albion.