This article is part of Football FanCast’s Loan Watch series, which takes a closer look at those players who are aiming to galvanise their careers away from the spotlight of their parent club.
West Bromwich Albion still sit atop the Championship table as the final international break of 2020 takes centre stage.
The following two weeks give manager Slaven Bilic an opportunity to refresh his mind ahead of a hectic festive period as the Baggies will surely look to continue their promotion push.
He’ll have the headache of trying to decide who will temporarily replace both Jake Livermore and Romaine Sawyers in the heart of midfield as they face a one-game suspension, but other more long-term factors could shape their season.
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Experimental361’s xG (expected goals) model revealed that the club should actually be sitting in sixth position, rather than at the summit, meaning to some extent, West Brom have had luck on their side.
Matty Phillips has bagged six himself, so that tells you all you need to know.
A striker could well be on the cards in January as Bilic looks to atone for his mistakes in signing the likes of Kenneth Zohore and Charlie Austin.
It is the latter’s performance which has been most surprising as the 30-year-old has an impressive record in this very division, scoring 69 goals in 143 appearances, per Transfermarkt.
However, this campaign he has only managed the solitary goal from ten starts.
That’s less than another one of their forwards, who is currently out on loan in the Championship…
The 20-year-old is a natural wide player, but he’s mainly been deployed as a striker, meaning he could come back to the Hawthorns with added versatile qualities that would make him of serious value to Bilic.
He’s performing better than Austin in the same league, can play in the number ten role, wide or upfront so it would make a ton of sense to recall him in January.
Leko’s pace and drive could well suit the system Bilic is trying to play too, you only have to look at how Grady Diangana and Matheus Pereira have thrived this season to see that
They have contributed with seven goals and ten assists, per WhoScored.
The Addicks loanee has scored more goals than Austin with fewer shots at goal (one per game), while his passing accuracy (78.5%) is much higher, meaning he should be more suited to the slick style of football on display in the west Midlands as Albion rank second in the league for pass success rate.