West Brom sign Alex Mowatt 
Alex Mowatt of Barnsley gestures during the Sky Bet Championship match between Watford and Barnsley at Vicarage Road on January 19, 2021 in Watford, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images)

West Bromwich Albion have secured the signature of midfielder Alex Mowatt after his contract expired at Championship rivals Barnsley.

The 26-year-old, who served as captain under Valerien Ismael at his previous club, is the Frenchman’s first signing after joining the club last month.

West Brom beat many Championship teams to the signature of Mowatt, who also declined a contract extension from Barnsley, which the club described as ‘the most lucrative deal ever offered to a Reds’ player’.

With Nottingham Forest one of the named clubs interested, it was likely that they were overlooked by the Englishman due to the Baggies’ Premier League promotion pedigree, as well as previous connections with Albion’s new manager.

As well as Mowatt, others have made the switch from Oakwell to the Hawthorns. Adam Murray has joined the club as assistant head coach from Barnsley, the role he held whilst Ismael was at the club.

Jonny Northeast has also joined Albion as a sports science coach, with Jack Riley becoming West Brom’s video analyst.

  • An ‘outstanding midfielder’

Ismael was full of praise for his new midfielder. Mowatt, who started all 46 Championship games, captained his side to a fifth-place finish. This was especially impressive due to many pundits tipping the Tykes’ for relegation before the start of the season.

The head coach was adamant that the new signing would be integral in helping the rest of the squad understand the new system he is looking to implement.

“Signing Alex is important to help the team understand the principles of our play,” said Ismael. “It will give the guys more confidence and understanding of how we want to play. It will be easier for them to follow him.”

Scoring goals from the midfield was a weak point for West Brom in their last stint in the Championship. Fillip Krovinovic, Jake Livermore, and Romain Sawyers scored just seven goals between them in the 2019/20 campaign, registering the same number of assists.

Mowatt brings a higher level of attacking threat to the West Brom side. Scoring eight and assisting seven last season, Ismael spoke confidently about his credentials and said the former Leeds United player would suit West Brom’s mentality.

“He is an outstanding midfield player with outstanding qualities and mentality. He scores goals outside the box and on set-pieces he is very dangerous,” said the 45-year-old.

He continued: “He is a hard worker with the right mentality and a lot of energy. The way Alex plays will suit the West Brom mentality.”

  • A midfielder was required

Replenishing the squad with talent strong enough to battle for promotion is the prime aim that must be worked towards before the start of the new season.

With West Brom reliant on loan players in the Premier League last season, no position across the squad saw such an exodus of quality as the midfield.

The conclusion of the 2020/21 season saw Connor Gallagher, Okay Yokuşlu, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles all return to their parent clubs. It would be feasible that such deals could have been extended a further season if Albion retained their top division status, but relegation to the second tier makes a return for any of the three players heavily unlikely.

According to The Mirror, Maitland-Niles is attracting interest from multiple sides in the Premier League, with The Sun also reporting the same about Gallagher.

According to The Boot Room, both Leeds and Crystal Palace are also keeping tabs on Turkish international Yokuşlu.

Before the addition of Mowatt, such departures saw West Brom with just two senior midfielders in their ranks – with these being Livermore and Sawyers.

The duo was integral to the Baggies’ promotion back in the 2019/20 campaign, playing a combined 87 matches out of a possible 92. However, their importance to the side diminished on the return to the Premier League.

Starting the season in the heart of the side, both players lost their place in the side, with neither starting a game after a 2-0 loss to Tottenham Hotspur in February.

  • Other transfer stories

With plenty of holes left to fill in the West Brom squad, there have been a plethora of rumours about incoming transfers.

The most recent of which is about striker Taiwo Awoniyi. According to Goal, Liverpool are yet to decide the future of the Nigerian, with both Albion and Stoke City making equerries about his availability.

At the club since 2015 after joining from the Imperial Soccer Academy, the 23-year-old have been loaned out across the continent to sides in Belgium, Holland, and Germany, with his most recent club being Union Berlin in the German Bundesliga.

His travels across Europe are down to his failure to obtain a work permit, but it has been reported that one has now finally been obtained after six years.

If Awoniyi was to join West Brom, he would likely be behind Karlan Grant in the striking pecking order, with his infrequent goalscoring tallies much behind the former Huddersfield Town striker, who is proven at Championship level.

However, with the future of Kenneth Zohore unknown, and Callum Robinson able to play both as a striker and on the wing, Ismael will likely be looking to invest in the forward department.

Although depth in the midfield has been aided by the addition of Mowatt, further depth will likely be looked at as a priority. According to Birmingham Live, Brentford’s playoff final hero Emiliano Marcondes was on their radar before his switch to AFC Bournemouth.

The Danish footballer played 40 times in the Championship last season, scoring three times, but is seemingly unneeded for Thomas Franks’ side in the Premier League.

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