Having made only three appearances following a summer move to West Brom, young central defender Cedric Kipre was in serious need of game time.
The 24-year-old, signed for just £900k from Wigan Athletic, couldn’t whiff at the starting XI under Slaven Bilic or Sam Allardyce, so a loan move to Belgian outfit Charleroi came to fruition late in the January transfer window.
It would be easy to overlook such a move, given he was part of the Latics side relegated to League One, as the Baggies were heading in the complete opposite direction but his time could come with the Midlands outfit now staring down the barrel at an instant return.
It would also be easy to overlook his credentials at this level of football. Kipre was one of the few shining lights for Paul Cook’s side and Albion’s swoop for him presents tremendous value considering how low risk it is.
The 6 foot 4 colossus was always going to find it tough breaking into the starting XI, even with the shock departure of Ahmed Hegazi. In reality, no one was getting past the promotion-winning duo of Semi Ajayi and Kyle Bartley, whilst Dara O’Shea was making great strides of his own and then there is the vast experience of Premier League champion Branislav Ivanovic.
It is no secret that West Brom’s defensive record is the worst in the top-flight, but it would have been too easy to risk involving Kipre and then denting his confidence for the long-term. Simply put, Luke Dowling and co played it right to send him out on loan.
When he returns in the summer, the former PSG graduate still has three years remaining on his current contract, so he has plenty of time to stake a claim at the Hawthorns.
Despite facing relegation, Wigan actually kept 11 clean sheets in their final 18 matches, with Kipre central to all that. “He was phenomenal,” said Wigan podcaster Adam Pendlebury to BirminghamLive. “He was absolutely brilliant. He was confident, nothing got past him.”
“In that run from February onward, where Wigan lost one in 15 and conceded only about six or seven goals, he was in the top three performing players,” he added.
Indeed, the numbers tell a similar story – Kipre averaged two aerial duels won, 3.9 clearances, 1.6 interceptions and 1.4 tackles per game from 36 league appearances, via WhoScored.
Here, we can see that the 24-year-old could read the game well at Championship level, making himself available at the right time and in the right space thwart the opposition, whether that be in the air or on the ground. And as Pendlebury explains, he was a hard man to bypass.
Now over in Belgium, Kipre’s two outings have seen him rank second for average WhoScored rating (7.31) amongst the Charleroi squad. Across both games, he’s won seven aerial duels and made six interceptions, continuing to build on those two key facets to his game.
If he can keep up that level of form, then he will be well worth a look ahead of next season.
The £1.08m-rated centre-back, who earns just £22.5k-per-week, could save Sam Allardyce – or whoever is in charge – millions as they won’t need to invest in another centre-back when Ivanovic inevitably departs, nor can you rule out someone like Ajayi remaining in the big time.
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