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Romaine Sawyers has helped bolster West Brom’s passing game under Slaven Bilic

Championship Picks

This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…

It’s been hard to gauge whether West Brom are genuine playoff contenders this season, which isn’t a surprise considering we’re only three games in.

In those opening matches, the Baggies are currently unbeaten in the league after claiming two wins and a draw.

Slaven Bilic deserves appreciation as the team are looking much more attractive on the eye due to their style of football.

As we’ve mentioned on Football FanCast already this week, their issue could lie in scoring goals.

Last season, Dwight Gayle, Jay Rodriguez and Harvey Barnes bagged 55 of West Brom’s 87 goals in the Championship – on their way to helping the Baggies average 1.9 goals per game.

So far this season, they remain short of that number at a slightly lower 1.6 goals per game.

Bilic brought in four new arrivals on deadline day to try resolve that problem – a trio of wingers and a proven goalscorer at this level in Charlie Austin, who has bagged 66 in 130 appearances.

And they have improved substantially in one area of the pitch – in part down to the change in system and also by virtue of the arrival of one key man this summer.

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On the Chalkboard

Romaine Sawyers rejoined the club in July having come through West Brom’s academy ranks as a youngster.

He was unable to break into the senior squad and went out to find game time elsewhere beginning with Walsall and then Brentford before sealing a £3m return to the Hawthorns.

His presence in the heart of Bilic’s midfield has been instrumental in their short season so far, as he’s often been the metronome making things tick.

Last season, the Baggies only managed a passing success rate of 76.7%, with them averaging 347 short passes per game.

Darren Moore was sacked before the Croatian eventually replaced him in June on a two-year contract, with James Shan failing to sufficiently impress to take the job on a permanent basis during his temporary stint in charge.

Under Bilic West Brom have managed a higher passing success rate of 85.5%, averaging 459 short passes per game – quite the improvement.

Sawyers has helped contribute to those numbers by being the key orchestrator linking the defence to the attack – he has improved game-by-game with his passing success rate so far this campaign, resulting in an impressive 98.4% against Luton Town on Saturday afternoon.

The 5ft 8 maestro is currently second in the league for that statistic when looking at players who have featured in each of the three Championship games this season.

Whilst the only midfielder averaging more passes per game in the league is Kalvin Phillips with 70.3,  just two more than Sawyers has managed per WhoScored.

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Article title: Romaine Sawyers has helped bolster West Brom’s passing game under Slaven Bilic

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