West Brom’s survival bid was dealt a bitter blow on Saturday afternoon as they slumped to a disappointing defeat at the hands of former Baggies boss Roy Hodgson, but it was an all too familiar story.
Albion just cannot find the back of the net.
Their defensive fortunes have drastically changed for the better in recent weeks, going from the Premier League’s leakiest backline to conceding just three goals in their last six outings.
But in that run, they have scored just twice – Big Sam will not pick up many points if his team cannot stick it in the goal. Only one side – rock-bottom Sheffield United – have found the net fewer times.
And with the Baggies now eight points adrift, something has to change otherwise it’s an instant return to the second flight.
In simple terms, Allardyce must provide new target man striker Mbaye Diagne sufficient service, something that has been lacking big time.
During that aforementioned run of matches, Albion have delivered over six accurate crosses on one occasion, whilst no player is managing more than one attempt per game (Matheus Pereira), as per WhoScored.
At 6 foot 4, Diagne has the capability to mix it with any top-flight central defender, especially as he’s averaging 4.3 aerial duels won per outing, which is more than any other Albion player.
Considering Big Sam deploys two wingers, his service should be far better, though it’s a simple fix and one that could see the creative Pereira (1.7 key passes per game) move back into the middle, where he is most effective.
It would mean that one of Ainsley Maitland-Niles or Conor Gallagher is sacrificed as all these central options cannot fit into the same side, but it’s a risk worth taking given the desperate need to score goals.
Allardyce’s best crosser of the ball is arguably Robert Snodgrass, who joined from West Ham in January yet finds himself out of the starting XI. Putting him back in out wide, with Pereira in the middle, could be exactly what is required to unlock Diagne’s true potential.
You’ve got the Brazilian playmaker feeding balls and dictating play in the no.10 role, and a proven veteran out wide to deliver the service the big target man needs.
Indeed, the 33-year-old has averaged 1.8 crosses per game throughout his long career, including two successive seasons in the top-flight managing 1.6 attempts or better, which is evidently an instant upgrade on the one per game that sits top of West Brom’s charts right now.
Similarly, Colin Calderwood told The Athletic: “He’s got crossing ability and is good at either creating or scoring goals,” before dubbing him a “team player.”
Just imagine how good Diagne could be with Pereira and Snodgrass pinging in balls left, right and centre – the Scotsman must start going forward.
AND in other news, West Brom’s Conor Gallagher let Sam Allardyce down vs Crystal Palace