West Brom return to Premier League action this afternoon and it’s not getting any easier for Sam Allardyce as they head to Molineux to face arch-rivals Wolves in the first Black Country derby in nine years.
The Baggies are yet to win under the 66-year-old and were embarrassingly knocked out of the FA Cup at the third-round stage last weekend.
Heading into today’s encounter they are some six points from safety, whilst no other side in the top-flight has leaked as many goals as Albion’s backline.
Big Sam has to get it right tactically against Nuno Santo, and here’s one way he can…
It’s no secret that West Brom lack an out-and-out defensive midfielder, and Allardyce is thought to be ‘determined’ to sign one during the January transfer window.
Indeed, that is somewhat the case, but he’s ignoring the potential of Sam Field, who is to be given a fair opportunity in the role. His campaign has been blighted by injuries, and even this game is too early for a comeback.
Against Blackpool, Big Sam deployed central defender Semi Ajayi in the role as an experiment and whilst he scored, he also failed to make a single tackle and had a poor passing accuracy of 69%, via SofaScore, which was way below his usual average of 75.6% per game.
Instead, we need to see Jake Livermore pushed into the position as he ranked second to Field for defensive output in the Championship last term, per The Athletic.
Per 90 minutes, the 31-year-0ld skipper won more tackles (1.54), made more blocks (0.38) and made more clearances (0.99) than either of Romaine Sawyers, Filip Krovinovic or Rekeem Harper, meaning there is no better player suited to the role whilst Field is still out injured.
He needs to be thwarted otherwise they risk conceding even more goals and by moving Livermore into that deeper role today that could well help achieve that.
Given that he also tops the charts in the Albion squad for fouls per game (2.2) too, he has the ability to terrorise his Portuguese opposite number this afternoon.
Valued just shy of £5m by Transfermarkt, the £35k-per-week enforcer must step up to the plate in this crucial encounter, his influence as an anchorman could be a game-changer for Big Sam in his desperate pursuit of a first win.
Three points here could be a huge boost for their season.
AND in other news, Albion could find their next Evans in “outstanding” Big Sam fave…