West Brom could be about to fill a long-standing void, if latest reports are to be believed…
According to the Daily Mail, the Baggies are one of several teams eyeing up a move for Crystal Palace midfielder James McCarthy as the Irishman is out of contract in the summer.
The Eagles are yet to begin talks over an extension, so he could be free to leave Selhurst Park, thus putting the likes of Celtic, Burnley, West Ham, Brighton, Bournemouth and of course, Albion on high alert.
It is thought that the 30-year-old is on around £50k-per-week at Palace.
Whilst it is no secret that Sam Allardyce needs a new holding midfielder – something that McCarthy is not – he could do no wrong in finally replacing a former West Brom stalwart.
After 13 years at the club, veteran Chris Brunt left the Hawthorns in the summer and really, Slaven Bilic never replaced him.
It was the right decision to move the 36-year-old on, but someone of his influence would have certainly been needed as the Baggies are deep in a relegation battle.
Over the course of his Albion career, Brunt averaged 1.6 tackles, 1.6 key passes, 1.5 clearances, and 1.4 shots per game, via WhoScored, proving to be valuable at either end of the pitch.
McCarthy is almost a carbon copy, if not a better defensive option than the Hawthorns legend as throughout his career, the 30-year-old has averaged 2.6 tackles and 1.6 interceptions per game, via WhoScored.
By comparison, only one other current starter (Conor Gallagher) has managed more tackles per game this campaign, whilst it is only Darnell Furlong that can top his interception figures, also per WhoScored.
So the 42-cap international may play further forward than an anchorman, but evidently, he’s still a hard man to bypass in the middle, which ultimately is something Big Sam needs to find as his defence has enough pressure on their heads having leaked more goals (43) than any other Premier League side this term.
Indeed, earlier this season, McCarthy was praised for his ability to break up Manchester United’s attacks, Jermaine Jenas told Match of the Day (via Pundit Arena):
“When United players get the ball, McArthur is there on to him, and his partner in crime James McCarthy is there backing him up. They’re never that far apart. They knock you out of your rhythm. It’s James McCarthy getting the block and stopping the attack.”
The Baggies boss knows him well from his time at Everton too, once lauding him as their “shining light” whilst ex-Albion manager Roy Hodgson has also dubbed him a “class player” who “deserves an awful lot of credit.”
And just like Brunt, he’s vastly-experienced in the big time after surpassing over 260 top-flight appearances this campaign.
If Big Sam can strike a deal this window, in a similar way to that of Robert Snodgrass, he should absolutely encourage the board to do it as West Brom could finally replace Brunt and get that brute force back into their engine room.
AND in other news, West Brom dealt potential transfer boost in striker pursuit