One of West Brom’s brightest players from their promotion campaign has cut an isolated figure this season.
Indeed, Baggies midfielder Romaine Sawyers has become a forgotten man at the Hawthorns, seeing his place in the starting XI usurped by a trio of loan players.
January arrivals Okay Yokuslu and Ainsley Maitland-Niles have started pretty much every game since their arrival, whilst Chelsea starlet Conor Gallagher has also been preferred.
But none of the three are likely to be at Albion next season, with the Midlands outfit staring down the barrel at an instant return to the Championship – only something extraordinary will see them saved from relegation at this stage.
It means there could be a serious chance at redemption for the 29-year-old outcast, who is under contract at West Brom until 2022, with an option of another year.
It’s easy to forget just how good Sawyers was last season, as his first stab at the big time has resulted in disaster. Perhaps it’s not unfair to suggest that he’s simply just not cut out for the Premier League.
That said, he’s a solid option for any promotion-chasing Championship side.
Currently, the Hawthorns academy graduate sits among Albion’s worst-rated players. His 6.12 rating, as per WhoScored, puts him ahead of only Hal Robson-Kanu (5.97) this season, though the Welshman is yet to start a league game.
Where has it gone wrong, then? Well, Sawyers’ passing metrics have almost fallen off a cliff – he’s 5% down on passing accuracy and is averaging 0.6 fewer key passes per game, via WhoScored.
In the Premier League, you aren’t given as much time on the ball as you would be in the second-flight. For example, you’re coming up against more teams that like to press – your City’s and Liverpool’s – compared to the likes of Luton Town, Middlesbrough and Blackburn. You’re not getting 90 minutes of relentless energy.
But the Baggies’ likely relegation could be a benefit for Sawyers as it gives him an opportunity to get back to his best and he should be allowed to do so, given his playing style.
He started 42 matches on their way to promotion, and his 90% passing accuracy average was comfortably the best in the squad. Similarly, he averaged nearly 15 more passes per game than any other player too, via WhoScored, which is hugely impressive.
Ex-Albion youth coach and caretaker boss Jimmy Shan waxed lyrical over Sawyers’ ability in an interview with Sky Sports in January 2020, he said:
“When I first got to the club, Romaine was 15 and he already stood out as an unbelievable technician. He played as a classic number 10 back in those days. He was a huge talent. He had this ability to pop up between the lines and to create. He wasn’t scoring as many goals as he should have done but he was an unbelievable team player.”
As evident above, not much was lost in terms of ability for the £6m-rated dynamo – but only in the Championship. He’s just not good enough for the Premier League but the £20k-per-week midfielder very much could be like a new signing for whoever is in charge next term.
AND in other news, introducing West Brom’s future star: Callum Morton…