This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
West Bromwich Albion hold the acclaim of being the best team in the second-tier, for now.
The season is currently on pause as the international break takes over with Slaven Bilic’s men occupying the top spot in the Championship after clinching 33 points from their 16 matches,
They also have a two-point cushion over their chasing pack rivals, Preston North End and Leeds United, so they should be involved in a competitive battle for the foreseeable future, but to some extent, they wouldn’t be in this position if it weren’t for one key member of the squad.
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Sam Johnstone has been an influential member of the starting lineup this season, being one of only four players to play every single minute on offer this campaign, and that will soon become three as Romaine Sawyers is suspended for their next fixture.
The 26-year-old has often been a target for fans to lash out at when things haven’t gone to plan so much so that Johnstone himself has taken to Twitter to defend himself – some even pleaded for Jonathan Bond to replace him.
Despite only keeping four clean sheets this term, the Baggies shot-stopper has been key to their successes.
Per MRKT Insights, West Brom rank tied-first for big chances denied, which effectively means that they have stopped any opposition from converting the easy opportunities handed to them.
So that makes Johnstone a life-saver as he’s more than played his part in that sense.
In addition, West Brom rank tenth for both xG (expected goals) conceded and total shots on target, meaning the defence in front of him has some work to do as they are letting him be peppered between the sticks.
But thankfully, the former Manchester United man has excelled enough to keep the west Midlanders in games and also shown why the bounty on his head was overly pathetic.
He also saved a penalty against local rivals Derby County when they drew 1-1 back in August, so he should probably hold some sort of cult status rather than being so unpopular.