West Bromwich Albion were held to a 1-1 draw on Boxing Day as Barnsley’s Aapo Halme struck late to prevent the visiting side from extending their lead at the top of the Championship.
It was the third 1-1 draw in four league fixtures for the Baggies and their recent dip in form has raised some minor question marks about their promotion credentials.
Slaven Bilic’s side are hardly in a rut right now but their most recent four games haven’t been as impressive as fans have come to expect.
Six straight victories preceded the club’s trip to Wigan on December 11th but they’ve only collected six points from the last available twelve.
That West Brom failed to pick up a victory over two relegation-threatened sides in Wigan and Barnsley have seemingly evoked cause for concern amongst some supporters.
In Steve Madeley’s Q&A on The Athletic, one fan suggested that they have been lucky to boast more than a solitary point from the last four games.
Madeley, however, took a more measured outlook on the current situation and suggested two players could hold the key to an improvement in form.
“I think ‘awful’ is harsh. But they have been well below the high standards set previously. It’s a cliché and a truism that all teams go through a tough spell in a Championship season, so if Albion can come through theirs with the minimum damage, that is a bonus. Need to get Sawyers and Livermore back to bossing games.”
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The budding relationship between Romaine Sawyers and Jake Livermore has formed a key component of the club’s early season success.
The former Brentford midfielder was described as a “breath of fresh air” by Darren Fletcher last month, while the same man described Livermore as “fantastic”, per Birmingham Live.
Both players have been regulars and highly influential in the midfield but they need to ensure their early season progress continues over the course of the entire campaign.
One of football’s most commonly uttered cliches argues that games are won and lost in central midfield. That phrase has only become cliched by virtue of its pertinence in the game, and Madeley’s name-checking of West Brom’s two midfield generals is only natural on current form.
Sawyers’ passing accuracy this season has averaged at 90.8% but against Barnsley it was down at just 78.3%, which was his second worst success rate of the season, per Whoscored. His worst, meanwhile, arrived two games ago against Birmingham City.
In the same fixtures, Livermore also recorded his two worst days in terms of passing accuracy in the Championship this season with 57.5% at Birmingham and 65.9% against Barnsley. His average for the season stands at 80.9%.
Clearly something hasn’t been clicking for Bilic’s midfield duo of late – the key to rejuvenating his side is likely to be synonymous with the form of Sawyers and Livermore.