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 international break presents the perfect opportunity to reflect on how West Brom have performed so far under Slaven Bilic.
It would be safe to say that it’s gone pretty well considering the club are unbeaten in the league – and they are yet to even fully fly out of the traps.
The Baggies are sitting fourth in the table, just a few points off Swansea City in first place, yet they haven’t seen the best from summer arrival Charlie Austin as he looks to improve his fitness during the time off.
When he does indeed make a comeback, it could be likely that he will knock Kyle Bartley off his first-team spot.
Firstly because of the reasons highlighted in this article by Football FanCast earlier this week, and secondly, as the man next to him has proven to be quite the bargain this season.
Even though the Baggies are yet to keep a clean sheet, Semi Ajayi has been quite the star at centre-back.
He’s winning an average of 4.2 aerial duels per game whilst also taking to the Croatian’s style of football superbly – improving from last year’s 63.8% passing success rate at Rotherham considerably as he’s now averaging 82.9% per match.
That has to be a mark on the player as well as how well Bilic has coached him.
That’s only emphasised by Matt Wilson, formerly of Express and Star, who gave a glowing review earlier this month following their win over Blackburn, he said:
“Solid at the back, and forced Sam Gallagher off at half-time, but as well as his battling tackles, he seems to have added previously unseen marauding runs into his repertoire.”
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West Brom signed him for just £1.3m. That’s it — a little over one million pounds.
Surely he is one of the steals of the season at that price, and it’s even more credible when you consider some of the mistakes the hierarchy at the Hawthorns have dealt out before – £15m for Scottish flop Oliver Burke, £10m on Brown Ideye and £6m on Victor Anichebe for example.
At just 25, Ajayi is far from reaching his peak as a central defender, so those involved in making the move from Rotherham happen fully deserve their plaudits.