West Brom seem destined to make an instant return to the Championship despite a small upturn in form since the January transfer window.
They sit ten points adrift of safety with only nine games left to play.
The Baggies have been above and beyond the worst defence in the Premier League this season, leaking a whopping 57 goals, which is six more than any other top-flight team.
However, their leaky backline has been far more resolute since Celta Vigo loanee Okay Yokuslu was deployed as an anchorman.
Indeed, Albion have conceded only three goals in their last six outings and it is no coincidence the Turkish powerhouse made his full debut in that time.
However, this has all come at a great cost as Sam Allardyce’s men have struggled to score goals and, when delving deeper into the issue, the 66-year-old seems to have been making the same sort of mistake that cost Slaven Bilic his job…
The Baggies have stopped the rot defensively but in that six-game period, they have only managed to score two goals. In the 23 games prior to that, the Midlands outfit only found the net 18 times, so it’s been a frequent problem throughout the season.
Only rock-bottom Sheffield United have scored fewer Premier League goals (16) than West Brom.
But what is the problem?
Perhaps it is the creation of chances, more than anything else.
As per FBRef, Allardyce’s squad ranks last for shot-creating actions, managing only 12.24 per game. By comparison, fellow promotion winners Fulham are managing 19.14 per 90 minutes.
Similarly, Albion rank second-bottom for progressive distance – this being how many times they complete a pass towards the opposition goal, averaging 2,058 yards per game.
You’ll find the Cottagers (8,047 yards per 90) sitting in sixth, behind the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool. This tells a shocking story that it’s a ‘defend first’ mentality under Big Sam as West Brom aren’t willing to attack, nor are they managing to fire off enough shots to try and score.
This problem may lie in the fact that their most creative player is wasted out of position.
Matheus Pereira is clear at The Hawthorns for chances created, having averaged two key passes per 90 minutes – the next best for regular starters is left-back Conor Townsend with 0.9 key balls per game, as per WhoScored.
Similarly, the Brazilian playmaker is top for shot-creating actions, managing 3.26 per 90 – that’s nearly 30% on his own accord. He needs to be deployed in the number 10 role, the very position in which he thrived on their way to promotion last season.
Pereira has delivered 14 goals and 23 assists in 69 appearances since joining from Sporting Lisbon. Of his 37 goal contributions, 21 have come from attacking midfield rather than out on the wing, as per Transfermarkt.
It begs the question – just why is Allardyce persisting with him out on the flank? His last seven starts have all come out wide, and he’s failed to provide a goal or assist. In fact, his last contribution was against Fulham, when he was played directly behind the striker.
Big Sam is now repeating that very mistake, and as a result, is sleepwalking the Baggies back into the Championship. They aren’t going to score many goals if their main source of goals is playing in the wrong position.
It’s time to move the £11.7m-rated gem back into the middle, even if it’s a little too late. He’s their last hope of salvaging something from the season.