West Brom have finally started to put up a fight, even if it seems a little too late.
Sam Allardyce’s men look like a new side thanks to the late January arrivals of Celta Vigo powerhouse Okay Yokuslu, Arsenal utility man Ainsley Maitland-Niles and prolific talisman Mbaye Diagne.
The Baggies notched back-to-back draws in the Premier League last week. However, it could have been six points from six on another day, including a scalp of Manchester United, who they deserved more from after notching two more missed big chances than the title-chasing outfit.
Then against Burnley, Albion were left playing with ten men for around an hour, and they still had more attempts on goal.
However, the biggest thing to take from those two results was their impressive defence, which only leaked one goal and considering the Midlands side have conceded 12 more times than any other top-flight team, that’s a positive step.
Now, it’s on Big Sam to improve their fortunes in front of goal…
And he can do that by unleashing Grady Diangana, who has coincidentally just returned from injury at the perfect time.
A front three involving the £10.8m-rated dynamo, the creative exploits of Matheus Pereira and now a proven scorer in Diagne could see the Baggies actually put up a solid battle at remaining in the top flight.
It’ll be a tough ask, considering they remain 11 points adrift of safety, but with 13 games remaining, it is not yet an impossible feat.
Allardyce believes they need eight clean sheets in those matches to survive, which to some extent is true, but eight draws and then five defeats isn’t going to be enough, for example.
Only two teams have scored fewer than Albion (19), which is why it’s time to unshackle their £18m club-record signing, starting with the game against relegation rivals Brighton this weekend.
Matty Phillips isn’t good enough for the cause, averaging a rating of just 6.59 with one goal to his name all campaign, via SofaScore, whilst Diangana was one of the Baggies’ most influential players last term as he contributed to 15 goals in just 30 appearances.
When he was paired with Pereira, the Hawthorns-based side won 16 of 29 Championship games, losing on only four occasions and the duo combined for 15 goals and 25 assists – this is something Big Sam must replicate, and he has the tools to do now he has Diagne in the mix – via Transfermarkt.
Indeed, the Galatasaray loanee has already contributed to two goals in four starts and he is averaging plenty of aerial duels won (4.8) per game, so he’ll be able to get onto the chances created by Pereira (1.7 key passes per game) and now Diangana, too.
The former Hammers gem has been dubbed an “explosive” player who can be a “total nightmare” on his day by Sky Sports pundits Keith Andrews and Lee Hendrie, so it’s time to bring him back into the fray to complete a dream attack.
If the defence can remain sorted, then this may be the final piece of the jigsaw in Albion’s survival bid.
AND in other news, “Tenacious” £9m-rated beast has become West Brom’s new Claudio Yacob…