West Bromwich Albion recorded back-to-back wins for the first time this season to mount a serious charge at Premier League survival on Monday night.
After comfortably dispatching Chelsea for five goals last weekend, Sam Allardyce’s men saw off the challenge of Southampton at the Hawthorns to move to within eight points of safety.
Two goals in the space of three minutes put the Baggies in the driving seat before the break – following an unfairly disallowed effort via VAR, Matheus Pereira put them ahead from the spot before Matty Phillips doubled the advantage.
All three points were sealed in the second half when Callum Robinson bagged his third goal in two games. And despite not getting on the scoresheet, Arsenal loanee Ainsley Maitland-Niles reaped the plaudits as Sky Sports‘, BirminghamLive’s, and the BBC’s Man of the Match.
Indeed, the 23-year-old dynamo was on top form in the engine room, recording the most passes in the opposition half of any Albion star but there was another name that deserved just as much credit – and no, it’s not any of the goalscorers.
West Brom’s impressive defensive record continued as they recorded a rare clean sheet. Only Manchester United (three goals) have conceded more goals in the last seven league outings than the Midlands outfit (four). That’s better than the likes of league leaders Manchester City, defending champions Liverpool and the division’s surprise package, West Ham.
At the heart of it all is club captain Kyle Bartley, who once again was a rock in defence.
Big Sam tinkered his backline, dropping one centre-back from the starting XI and it proved to be a shrewd call as the 29-year-old excelled on their way to thwarting the Saints.
The visitors were always going to pose a threat with the prolific Danny Ings in attack, but Bartley wasn’t fazed by him whatsoever, winning eight of his ten battles (80%) throughout the 85 minutes he was on the pitch.
Bartley also made a match-high eight clearances – double what any other player could manage on the pitch. This proved to be crucial towards their clean sheet as he was quick to read the game and then snuff out any danger.
The £17.5k-per-week colossus chipped in with one interception too, but perhaps more interestingly, he proved to be a source of creativity as he provided two key passes – that’s as many as assist-king Pereira and was more than Maitland-Niles (zero), via SofaScore.
As Baggies reporter Joseph Chapman stated in his post-match ratings column for BirminghamLive, Bartley ‘won everything in the air’ and when Southampton enjoyed a really dominant spell, he ‘stood firm.’
He and the Baggies got their rewards come full-time and as such, the former Leeds United powerhouse was Allardyce’s unsung hero if not the real star of the show on Monday night.
AND in other news, Exclusive: Steve Bull wants to see 43 y/o as West Brom manager…