West Bromwich Albion have bounced back from an inconsistent start to the campaign and are currently sitting fifth in the table, three points off third-place Leeds United.
The Baggies also boast the second-best defensive record in the Championship alongside Daniel Farke’s side, having conceded merely 17 goals in 17 games so far. One of the keys to this has been Carlos Corberan’s solid partnership at the back.
Despite using a back three this season, the Spanish coach has reverted to a four-man backline in recent weeks, with veteran Kyle Bartley partnering Cedric Kipre in the heart of the defence.
The latter made merely 19 appearances in all competitions in his three seasons prior but has already featured 16 times for the West Midlands club this term, starting in 94% of West Brom’s matches thus far, as per Transfermarkt.
Bartley, on the other hand, has been with the club since 2018 but made just 13 league appearances last term, a feat that has already been matched in the current campaign.
Speaking on the What The EFL? Podcast, former Stevenage and Rotherham United player Adrian Clarke has heaped praise on the duo, calling them “outstanding” for their contributions this season [quotes via Inside Futbol]:
“The centre-halves are definitely developing a very, very good partnership.
“Kyle Bartley and Cedric Kipre are outstanding as a duo this season.
“I mean, they both had some very up-and-down seasons in recent times,” he continued.
“We probably all looked at them individually at one point and thought, ‘not sure they are really up to it, not playing for a top club like West Brom in the Championship’.
“But it is working.”
Both Bartley and Kipre’s futures have been up in the air in recent times but they have undoubtedly been exceptional this term, particularly in recent weeks, and have been central to West Brom’s solid defensive record.
The Baggies look stronger than they have done in years and, despite Corberan wanting to play attacking football, he has built a solid foundation at the back to work with.