West Brom have battled hard to beat the drop in recent weeks but it was too little, too late as relegation back to the Championship was confirmed last week following a defeat to Arsenal.
The Baggies only have their pride to play for ahead of Wednesday night’s encounter with West Ham United, though manager Sam Allardyce will undoubtedly want to see a result against his former club.
Last time out, Albion were well-beaten by last season’s champions, Liverpool, at the Hawthorns and return to the same scene as the Irons are looking to bolster their European claims.
Big Sam’s current squad is awash with temporary loan players, including Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Conor Gallagher, and MBaye Diagne and there can be an argument that they shouldn’t feature if the 66-year-old has one eye on next season.
However, there are other players in the side that have continually let the Midlands club down and it is these that the West Brom boss must avoid playing in these final two matches, starting tonight.
In a strange move to drop Diagne from the starting XI at the weekend, Big Sam opted for the rarely-seen talents of Hal Robson-Kanu and he even found the net but he was merely capitalising on a woeful defensive mistake.
The 31-year-old Welshman is out of contract in the summer, when his reported £30k-per-week contract comes to an end after five seasons at the club.
His start at the weekend was actually his first in the Premier League all season, with his only other appearances coming in the Carabao Cup, in which Albion were knocked out early with him captaining the side.
That speaks volumes and is perhaps why he’s still set to depart the club next month.
Once lauded as an “absolute machine” by former Reading teammate Jem Karacan, he has evidently seen some regression to his game in the past year and considering he’s not going to be involved in the Championship next season, it would be pretty pointless to start him in this match.
If he’s not wanting to deploy Diagne anymore, then Allardyce should look to Karlan Grant – the Baggies’ £12m summer signing, who signed a whopping six-year deal.
He has played just 32 minutes since early February yet is the most likely option to lead the line next term. He needs game time, not Robson-Kanu.
Starting the veteran is only going to hold them back in the long term, so he must be axed from the starting XI this evening as West Brom look to plan for life in the Championship.