West Bromwich Albion host their arch-rivals in what could be a pivotal Black Country derby later this evening.
It is a must-win game for Sam Allardyce’s men as they sit 11 points adrift of safety with only five games left to play, so a defeat would all but confirm their relegation back to the Championship.
The 66-year-old, who is yet to have such a dismal feat on his CV, will have to get his team selection spot on and they will be buoyed by the fact that they defeated Wolves when the two teams last met.
After turning a corner defensively since the January transfer window slammed shut, the Baggies have looked awfully susceptible at the back once again, leaking five goals in their last two outings.
The right-side of Big Sam’s back four looked particularly weak in both matches, so the Albion boss must consider a change there with Darnell Furlong surely facing the axe.
The 25-year-old has been inconsistent throughout the campaign, grading as their ninth-best player (6.65) as per WhoScored ratings but in these last two games, he has performed below that mean, picking up a disastrous 6.06 against Leicester City and a 6.61 last time out against Villa.
Against the Foxes, he was particularly wasteful in possession, losing the ball a whopping 25 times – comfortably the most on the pitch – and making only 36% of his 25 passes, as per SofaScore.
This was then repeated at Villa Park, where the former QPR star made just eight passes throughout 90 minutes on the pitch. That’s just one every 11 minutes.
BirminghamLive’s Joseph Chapman claimed that he struggled with the threat on offer by Anwar El Ghazi, and that could happen again with the likes of Adama Traore and Daniel Podence at Nuno Santo’s disposal.
The Baggies cannot afford to keep leaking goals when there is so much ground to cover in so little time. Perhaps it would be a wiser decision to opt for the more defensively sound Dara O’Shea, who is versatile enough to play through the middle and on the right.
Ex-Albion boss Slaven Bilic, who handed the young Irishman his debut, heaped praise on him, once claiming: “Dara is the future, and he can be present. Dara is one of the reasons why when I came to the club we didn’t sign another defender,” via BirminghamLive.
Furlong is currently holding West Brom back, so Big Sam must look to show no mercy and axe the £9m-rated right-back this evening.