Carlos Corberan has expressed his admiration for Bristol City’s recruitment and Nigel Pearson’s work. West Bromwich Albion manager Carlos Corberan has described Bristol City as a “clever club” for how they have negotiated the transfer market over the previous nine months to win large sales while still reinforcing and improving their squad.
Corberan’s Baggies drew 0-0 at Ashton Gate on Saturday, with City dominating the first half and the visitors dominating the second, leaving both the Spaniard and Nigel Pearson somewhat content, if not a little upset that neither team was able to win.
Pearson has previously expressed appreciation for Corberan’s approach to the game and character, and the admiration appears to be mutual, with the Baggies manager especially impressed with City’s recruiting under the 60-year-old.
After a period of inactivity following the departure of Covid, City have made two significant sales in the last two transfer windows, with Antoine Semenyo and Alex Scott both joining Premier League Bournemouth for a combined £35.5 million. Pearson and supporters would surely like to see the pair in Pearson’s squad this season, but due to the financial realities of the Championship and the desire for individuals to play in the top division, it has not been possible. Corberan, on the other hand, has been particularly impressed with how City java has adjusted to life without Semenyo and then Scott.
Sam Bell is now a fixture on the left-hand side of the attack, and has made significant strides forward this campaign, with the academy product named on the standby list for the England Under-21 squad. And while Jason Knight’s place as an attacking midfielder wasn’t strictly part of Pearson’s initial squad planning, as he had hoped to pair him with Scott, the Republic of Ireland international is making the role his own. Bell, naturally, cost nothing in terms of transfer fee while, if Knight is to be considered as a “replacement” for Scott – which is what has eventually transpired – his fee represents around eight per cent of what the Cherries paid for the England U20 midfielder.
“Bristol have shown that they are a clever club, with one coach that, for me, has had one massive impact,” Corberan said. “Every time he has lost a player, like Semenyo, or Scott this year – players that went for a lot of money – he has found a replacement at the same level without cost, or with a small cost.
“Their replacements allow me to tell you that they have made clever decisions. In terms of the coach, he started to play with a five last year. When he lost Semenyo, he found in Bell – a 21-year-old player – a better player than even the one that they were losing. When they were losing Scott, they found – before they’d even lost him – in Knight a player who was £1, 2, 3m, I don’t know, but it was not the money they earned when they sold Scott to Bournemouth.
“They found a perfect replacement, because he’s another international player, a player who plays in the same national team as (Jayson) Molumby and I remember him from Derby County three or four years ago. They have been very clever and they are using the resources very well.
“I give a lot of merit to the coach, because I respect him a lot. They have had complicated results with him, but the club had full confidence in him and now I think they are getting the rewards.”
Those rewards for City didn’t extend to three points on Saturday as Corberan accepted his side struggled in the first half to break through the Robins press, and a number of their own mistakes in possession led to opportunities for the hosts.
He was visibly incensed with the distribution and decision-making in defence, something they successfully corrected in the second 45 minutes, aided by midfielder Jayson Molumby who had cut a frustrated figure initially but whose influence steadily grew. West Brom struck the crossbar through John Swift, saw substitute Conor Townsend miss a golden opportunity to score and felt they had two decent penalty shots turned down, the first when Zak Vyner appeared to block a Josh Maja shot with his hands at close range as he slid in, and the second when Kal Naismith upended the substitute with a slide tackle inside the penalty area.
“I think we can take a lot of positives from our second-half performance because it was excellent,” Corberan added. “We were showing a lot of personality, attacking mentality and braveness.
“They were better than us in the first half, in my opinion.” They were taking advantage of our mistakes rather than their own. It was difficult for us to launch attacks and counter-attacks during the first 45 minutes, but after the break, we shifted things up and began to attack a lot better and with more desire in the attacking zones.
“In the first half, we made a lot of mistakes that allowed them to press us, and they are a very aggressive pressing team.” We needed to make better selections.
“In the second half, we went more direct with goal kicks because we didn’t get much reward from playing out in the first half.” I also think we were more effective on the ball when our center-backs played the ball into space and made shorter passes.
“I think another thing that helped us was getting Jayson Molumby’s position right. He was able to contribute more to the action in the second half, which meant we could be more dangerous in the final third.
“These were some of the details that helped us in the second half, but I also thought the determination and impact of the players who came off the bench was significant.” They all helped us attack more effectively.”