This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
The second international break of the season is finally coming to an end as the Championship season resumes this weekend.
Slaven Bilic’s West Brom face a trip to Middlesbrough on Saturday afternoon looking to continue their fine form into the festive period.
They currently top the table after 11 games as their 4-2 victory over Cardiff City last time out saw them overcome the first defeat of their season, which came just days earlier to Leeds United.
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The Croatian manager may even be able to call upon one of last season’s influential players after he made a return from injury on Monday afternoon.
Ahmed Hegazi featured for the full 90 minutes for the Egypt national team as they defeated Botswana 1-0, and the 28-year-old played a vital role.
Firstly, he kept a clean sheet on his first start since undergoing surgery for a persistent ankle problem, but he also provided an accurate long-ball pass to Mahmoud Alaa, who then whipped in a cross for Hamdy Fathi to slot home late on in the match.
The centre-back had featured for the Baggies’ U23 squad a few weeks ago, but this was his first real taste of competitive football action, and he may have just proven his fitness in doing so.
This should serve as a warning to Kyle Bartley, who has been quite an inconsistent figure in the Albion squad so far this season.
Against Blackburn Rovers, the 29-year-old was particularly error-prone, as the Express & Star pointed out in their match report of the game by saying: “In a mistake that mirrored last season’s woes at the back, Kyle Bartley played a poor pass in field to Romaine Sawyers, who was tackled on the edge of his own box before Bradley Dack swept the ball home.”
When comparing Hegazi’s 40 Championship appearances to Bartley’s start to the season, you start to see that the Egyptian may be the man to help put a stop to their defensive woes.
West Brom have kept just one clean sheet in 11 matches.
It appears that a switch in defence could be inevitable – certainly if Bilic wants to stop leaking goals, as that could well be the difference between finishing top and having to fight it out in the playoffs.