While Valerien Ismael has seen his West Bromwich Albion side get their 2021/22 Championship campaign off to a fantastic start, having picked up 13 points over their opening five fixtures of the new season, there have nevertheless been a couple of close calls along the way.
Indeed, aside from the 4-0 victory over Sheffield United, Albion’s victories so far this season have all been by a single goal, defeating Luton Town 3-2, Blackburn Rovers 2-1 and requiring a last-minute winner to see off Peterborough United 1-0 before the international break.
With what is sure to be a challenging physical test against Millwall coming up on Saturday, with Daniel Ballard and Murray Wallace both 6 foot 2 and Jake Cooper standing at 6 foot 5 in Gary Rowett’s back three, it would appear wise for Ismael to combat the Lions’ aerial presence by deploying summer signing Jordan Hugill from the off.
Indeed, despite only featuring for 33 minutes in the win over Peterborough, Hugill proved incredibly effective for Albion during his short time on the pitch.
In that game, the £1.8m-rated man had five shots – one on target, three off-target and one blocked – won one ground duel and four aerial duels, made two clearances and drew one foul, as well as being on the field when Semi Ajayi scored the Baggies’ late winner.
These returns saw the centre-forward earn a SofaScore match rating of 6.7, an impressive feat considering his limited time on the pitch.
Furthermore, with Ismael claiming upon the £36k-per-week striker’s arrival at The Hawthorns that Hugill “will allow us to be more adaptable as a team” as West Brom will “have some games that are different and we will need more physicality in the box”; as well as stating his belief that “it is important we have a striker in the area who is able to win headers” in the aforementioned fixtures, it would certainly appear as if the Millwall clash falls into this category.
As such, with the Frenchman undoubtedly hoping his side can pick up where they left off before the international break, it would very much appear as if starting Hugill against the Lions would provide the 45-year-old’s chances of doing so with a considerable boost.