This article is part of Football FanCast’s In Numbers series, which takes a statistical look at performances, season-long form and reported transfer targets…
Pressure, what pressure?
West Bromwich Albion returned to the top of the Championship table with a comfortable 2-0 victory over basement boys Stoke City on Monday night.
The Baggies had slipped down the table slightly over the weekend, but only because those around them competed 48 hours earlier.
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A goal from Matty Phillips, who snagged his sixth of the season, and a penalty from super-sub Hal Robson-Kanu was enough to secure all three points up in Staffordshire.
Following the match, talkSPORT pundit Adrian Durham made a bold claim surrounding another one of Albion’s key players.
He believes that despite being the best ‘passer of a ball’ in the division, Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips is the best overall player in the division.
Who gets your vote? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/Y1xAFpxFcl
— talkSPORT (@talkSPORT) November 5, 2019
There’s no doubt that is enough to back up his viewpoint – Phillips is United’s top-rated player on WhoScored (7.45), while no other player has recorded more tackles (four).
But to discount Sawyers entirely from the argument on that basis is a little naive, he offers so much more than just his passing ability.
The 28-year-old is the key orchestrator to the entire squad – averaging 80.3 touches per game. He is the metronome, the engine.
Without him, there is an argument to be made that the Baggies wouldn’t be where they are.
Sawyers has played every minute of every game this season, which only three other players have managed, and they are all in defence, a position that probably requires less energy.
The midfield maestro is averaging a vast 92% passing accuracy and nearly 70 passes per game, which ranks him as the best overall in the division for the first category, and the best midfielder in the division for the latter.
But he also offers other aspects to his game as seen with his 1.3 tackles and 75% aerial duels won per game, via SofaScore.
Sawyers is even a player that Leeds fans were drooling over after his performance on Monday night as they clearly regret not trying to sign him in the summer – despite having Phillips.
In the same clip linked above, former Premier League striker Darren Bent claims he cannot believe that the Baggies man isn’t playing in the top-flight.
This only goes to show his importance to Slaven Bilic’s side, and given the lack of options he has at central midfield, taking him out of the team would be so much more disastrous than if Phillips was absent for Marcelo Bielsa.
If Sawyers gets injured or picks up suspension it will result in a rapid recall for either Gareth Barry, who hasn’t played since his ‘career-threatening’ injury, or Rekeem Harper, who has played just six league minutes all season while centre-back Semi Ajayi is also an option.
Whereas Leeds have multiple options to fill any void left behind by Phillips – for example, Adam Forshaw has a better passing success rate than the 23-year-old at 89.7%, which is the highest in their squad, per WhoScored.
It is this sort of ‘MVP’ status that makes Sawyers the best in the division as he’s just ever so crucial to Albion’s promotion hopes and given they are top of the table, and that he’s played every game, he should currently be the number one name on Durham’s lips.