This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
The English transfer window might have slammed shut earlier this month, but that hasn’t stopped West Brom from signing one more player.
Baggies boss Slaven Bilic landed a flurry of players on deadline day including the arrival of Charlie Austin from Southampton, but late Thursday evening it was announced that the club had signed Ali Al-Habsi on a free transfer until the end of the season.
The veteran shot-stopper has been out of contract having played for Al-Hilal in the Saudi Pro League for the past two seasons with his last appearance in English football coming against Huddersfield back in 2017 when Reading lost the playoff final to them.
Al-Habsi has also played for Wigan Athletic and Bolton Wanderers over his long career, so he’s a name that certainly resonates with much of the Baggies fanbase.
The move is an interesting one from Bilic as they already have two goalkeepers that seem to be vying for that number one spot, with Sam Johnstone currently holding that acclaim – starting all five Championship matches.
Jonathan Bond is their other goalkeeper and his performance in the Carabao Cup a few weeks ago saw many fans wanting to see more, though, after his penalty heroics against Derby last weekend, Johnstone has undoubtedly won a few of those fans back.
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Al-Habsi would appear to be finished at the age of 37, but we have seen some goalkeepers still play at a similar age – for example, Willy Caballero is a viable backup at Chelsea, and he’s actually slightly older by a couple of months.
This move could be more for squad depth and mentorship than as someone who is going to play between the sticks week in, week out.
And it’s only when you consider that then it makes the move seem rather smart.
That prior relationship plus his experience in England could make him the perfect signing to help improve Bond’s game.