West Bromwich Albion manager Steve Bruce is ready to make dramatic changes to his starting lineup in the Baggies’ upcoming Championship fixture.
In recent comments cited by the Express & Star, the 61-year-old Albion boss suggested that, following his side’s 2-0 loss to Luton Town on Saturday, he is ready to make sweeping changes to his starting XI for the trip to Middlesbrough on Tuesday night.
Speaking about the weekend’s loss, as well as his potential lineup against Boro, Bruce said: “I’m hoping we’ve bottomed out. I’m looking for a response and maybe I look around at other people and say: ‘Right, it’s somebody else’s chance.’
“The reason I have come in from afar is to work with good players. It’s okay looking a good player on paper – you’ve got to show it on the pitch. Now is the time when we have to show our metal.
“A lot of these players played in the Premier League last year. But that means nothing when you come to Luton Town who are fighting away in the Championship. You have got to make a fist of it. You have got to have more about you than what we have shown.”
While, in truth, there are a number of candidates for the chop when West Brom make the trip to Riverside tomorrow evening, there is one player in particular who would very much appear to be one of the more likely to make way against Boro – Semi Ajayi.
Indeed, the centre-back was arguably the Baggies’ worst performer against Luton last time out, completing just 22 of his 46 attempted passes – a success rate of a mere 48% – failing to find his intended target with 10 of his 11 attempted long balls and ceding possession for his side an extraordinarily bad 24 times.
These returns saw the £4.5m-rated defender earn an extremely disappointing SofaScore match rating of just 6.7, while Birmingham Live’s Joseph Chapman awarded the 28-year-old a three in his own player ratings, as well as stating of the Nigeria international’s display:
“Began rather shakily. Passing out from the back and attempted through balls once he’d advanced up the pitch seldom reached their intended target. All over the place.”
As such, with Dara O’Shea appearing to be ready for a return to the starting XI on Tuesday – with Joseph Masi having predicted that the 22-year-old could have been in line for a start against Luton – it would appear highly advisable for Bruce to axe the £16.5k-per-week player whose “passing is dreadful” – in the words of Adrian Goldberg – and replace him with the Republic of Ireland international for the clash at the Riverside Stadium – as a repeat performance from Ajayi could well cost Albion big time against Boro.