West Brom’s plight in the Premier League isn’t getting any easier, and it will take an awful lot for Sam Allardyce to find the answer to stopping Manchester United and their enigmatic playmaker Bruno Fernandes.
Although the 66-year-old may have one ace up his sleeve in the form of winter signing Okay Yoksulu, who arrived for the remainder of the season on loan from La Liga outfit Celta Vigo.
After a cameo role during the Baggies’ defeat to Spurs last weekend, it’s time for Big Sam to unleash him from the off, now that he’s gotten to train uninterrupted with his new team…
Despite crumbling to yet another defeat in north London, the Turkish international gave a positive debut from the bench. As per SofaScore ratings, he actually graded as West Brom’s best player with a rating of 7.1.
In just 12 minutes of action, Yokuslu recorded three tackles, won 83.3% of his duels and made 75% of his passes – only showing a glimpse of what he has to offer.
Albion sporting and technical director Luke Dowling gave a glowing endorsement of the 26-year-old upon his arrival. He told the official website:
“It is testament to Okay that he has also made the decision to commit himself to that challenge. Okay is a battling midfielder who wears his heart on his sleeve.”
Indeed, we saw that in just a fraction of playing time.
Not since the likes of Claudio Yacob and Youssef Mulumbu have West Brom had a proper industrious warrior at the base of midfield – someone capable of disrupting the opposition and their rhythm.
There will potentially be no bigger test than Fernandes, an absolute creative sensation who has contributed towards a whopping 50 goals in only 56 appearances, via Transfermarkt.
But as Albion’s relegation rivals Sheffield United showed only a few weeks ago, he’s not completely unstoppable, and that’s something Allardyce needs to replicate at the Hawthorns this afternoon if he’s to stand a chance of stopping the Red Devils.
The Blades’ Oliver Norwood put in a performance to stop the Portuguese magician from having any significant influence – he failed to score or provide an assist as Chris Wilder’s men ran out 2-1 victors, and that was thanks to the 29-year-old, who made five tackles and one interception, via SofaScore.
Yokuslu must take up the position as a shield for the backline, the last line of defence.
As per SmarterScout (via The Athletic), the 6 foot 3 beast rates out at 88/99 for ball recoveries and interceptions, which suggests a knack of not only reading the game well but also acting swiftly to benefit his side.
He is not shy to dig deep and battle with the opposition either, grading out at 88/99 for aerial duels too.
By no means will he be a shoo-in to thwart the attacking exploits of United’s key man, but at the very least, he can offer some defensive stability that they have otherwise lacked all season – after all, they have leaked 15 more goals than any other Premier League side as well as across Europe’s elite divisions.
Allardyce must take inspiration from Sheffield United’s win and deploy Yokuslu as a defensive midfielder this afternoon. He could be their biggest game-changer against one of the division’s most lethal players.
AND in other news, West Brom could have another Kevin Phillips right under their nose