Frank Lampard will be hoping that the dangerous version of Branislav Ivanovic he played alongside at Chelsea will not be turning up for West Brom this weekend.
The Blues head coach, along with several first-team players, will be aware of the threat that the defender brings at both ends of the pitch ahead of Chelsea’s visit to the Hawthorns on Saturday.
The Serbian defender won everything there is to win at Stamford Bridge, including several Premier League titles and the 2012 Champions League trophy and was the first-choice right-back option over his nine seasons in west London.
Branislav Ivanovic will be wanting to haunt former club Chelsea in his Premier League debut
The Serbian won everything there is to win at Stamford Bridge, including two European titles
But now the veteran defender is set for a different role in England’s top-flight. Having played for title challengers Lokomotiv Moscow, Zenit St Petersburg and, of course, Chelsea in his career, he will now help Slaven Bilic’s side avoid the drop this term.
His role within a squad will change too. His status at Chelsea was one of many experienced figures rather than the sole leadership figure he will take up in the Baggies defence.
And Ivanovic will bring much-needed experience to the West Brom back line, which is rather inexperienced for a top-flight side.
Ivanovic (above) will bring great experience and defensive qualities to Slaven Bilic’s Baggies
Current first-team regulars Dara O’Shea and Semi Ajayi had not played Premier League football before this season. Meanwhile, Kyle Bartley is the experienced defender in the side at 29-years-old, but has only 21 top-flight appearances as a back-up option for Swansea under his belt.
Ivanovic is capable of performing on the biggest stage as well – at both ends of the pitch. At Chelsea, he scored the winning goal in the 2013 Europa League final, the League Cup semi-final in 2015 and against Napoli in the Champions League last-16 on the way to winning the competition with the Blues in 2012.
Now-Chelsea coach Lampard gave an insight into how influential the Serbian can be on the pitch just after winning the Europa League seven years ago.
Ivanovic is also a goal threat and scored the winner in Chelsea’s 2013 Europa League final win
Ex-team-mate and current Chelsea boss Frank Lampard (left) called Ivanovic (right) ‘a beast’
He told the official Chelsea website in 2013 after the final win against Benfica: ‘Every season since he has been at the club he has been an absolute professional and he is a man you want on your side.
‘You only have to look at him to see what a beast he is, he goes under the radar a bit because he just does his job, but what a player. He’s a pleasure to play with and a great man, and he particularly deserved it out of everybody.’
Ivanovic will also bring a lot of defensive security at the Hawthorns, if his recent statistics are anything to go by.
The 36-year-old won 77.53 per cent of his defensive duels during his final season at Zenit St Petersburg last term, while he also finished as the third-best defender in both long and short passing accuracy.
Ivanovic won the vast majority of his defensive duels in the Russian Premier League last season
And as one of the great all-round defenders in the modern Premier League era, Ivanovic will be an influence in the opposition’s penalty area too.
The veteran defender sits 15th on the all-time goalscorers for defenders in England’s top-flight and has the second-highest goal tally out of those still playing in the Premier League, behind ex-team-mate Gary Cahill – now at Crystal Palace.
This experience and quality all over the pitch will be a big influence in the Baggies dressing room, with new head coach Bilic was delighted in securing the signing of the Serbian.
He told the club’s official website: ‘He’s a great addition for us. He ticks all the boxes.
‘He’s done everything in his career – it’s been magnificent. We’re delighted. He adds quality and experience on the pitch and off the pitch.
West Brom coach Slaven Bilic (above) described Ivanovic as an important signing for the club
‘So it is not only him, it is him plus the influence he will have on not just defenders but the whole team around him.
‘That’s why we targeted him as one of our prime targets. It’s a great signing for us.’
Question marks will be asked about whether the veteran Ivanovic can still compete at the level he produced at Chelsea, winning seven trophies in seven seasons alongside current Blues head coach Lampard.
But you only have to look at Chelsea’s latest defensive recruit – 36-year-old Thiago Silva – to realise that age is just a number when you have the experience behind you.