January signings could be enough to save West Brom from relegation
Newly promoted Premier League sides that have had a poor start to the season – like West Bromwich Albion this time around – have traditionally responded in two ways.
The first method is to reluctantly accept your fate, maintain the manager and structures that got you promoted in the first place, and quietly prepare for the next campaign. This approach has been characterized by Norwich City more recently, who have backed Daniel Farke and their low-cost recruiting, despite having seven safety points when opening last season’s winter transfer window.
The other approach clubs have taken in the past is to skydive with a firefighting head coach, before attempting to reshuffle the squad during the notoriously tricky January sales.
West Brom fits firmly into the latter category, putting aside popular Slaven Bilic for the pint of wine, Premier League survivor Sam Allardyce with an 18-month contract in December. Adherence to the approach was then reinforced by their transfer activity. The last hectic days have seen the Baggies complete four signings – five if you count backup goalie Andy Lonergan – before the transfer window closes on Monday night.
Newcomers were also needed. So far, there has been little to no evidence of West Brom transferring into your typical Big Sam side. Since Allardyce took over, his side have conceded three Premier League goals per game on average. , dispatching 24 in eight matches. That number would have been even more depressing, had it not been for Sam Johnstone’s beautiful form.
This included 5-0 humiliations at the hands of Manchester City and Leeds, while Arsenal also put them unanswered four times last month. Perhaps their most disturbing defensive display of all came against Fulham on Saturday.
In the first half, the Cottagers – who had scored just 15 Premier League goals in their previous 19 appearances – tore West Brom apart like a burning knife in butter. Bobby Decordova-Reid scored and hit the post as Fulham recorded eight shots in the opening 45 minutes. A shift to four at the back after Dara O’Shea left helped stem the tide somewhat, but Fulham’s dominance was another stark reminder of how tough the job Allardyce has on his hands.
Despite their poor first half, the Baggies rallied to score a point, with one of their newcomers, Mbaye Diagne, having a significant impact.
The 29-year-old, on loan from Galatasaray, has had a special career, but by setting his new team’s second goal he has already started to pay back his loan fees. In Diagne, West Brom finally seems to have a striker capable of spinning regularly. This has been a problem since Jay Rodriguez and Dwight Gayle left the club, with Charlie Austin scoring the best scoring for the Baggies last season with a miserable 11 and Callum Robinson managing just three goals this term.
Diagne isn’t the only encouraging signing from West Brom in January, either. They also managed to recover Okay Yokuslu on loan from Celta Vigo. The 26-year-old is expected to help give the Baggies midfield some bite, an area they have sometimes lacked this season.
While the energy of Conor Gallagher and Romaine Sawyers has been commendable, they have often been played far too easily, with neither of them making the top 25 for tackles and interceptions, although West Brom goes more. longer without the ball than any other prime minister’s team. League this season.
Yokuslu recorded an impressive 97 combined tackles and interceptions in the 2018/2019 La Liga campaign, despite Celta claiming the division’s sixth-highest number of possession. He has continued to display encouraging bullet recovery numbers since then and that kind of active destructiveness in the middle of the park is exactly what West Brom is calling for. He’s a decent passer of the ball as well, suited him well to nurture the deep talismanic Matheus Pereira.
Meanwhile, the addition of Ainsley Maitland-Niles is another big boost to their chances of survival. Sliding down the pecking order at Arsenal this season, it’s easy to forget that the 23-year-old won three England caps at the start of the campaign. The move will likely suit both sides, giving Maitland-Niles a chance to fulfill his desire to play in a wide midfield, while West Brom wins a proven Premier League player with a strong mentality.
Robert Snodgrass rounds out the West Brom Winter Arrivals Quartet. Almost always present since signing, his contributions on the pitch have been negligible so far, but he knows exactly what a relegation junk is. and Allardyce-ball, train.
So can these new boys really help the Baggies catch up with the nine points they are currently unsure of? Well, a plus is that incorporating those signings into the starting XI shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
Allardyce’s methods are effective, but simple. The tactical instructions, although based on considerable screening of the opposition, are concise and to the point, leaving players with few excuses for any lack of understanding.
The newcomers also appear to be addressing many of the Baggies’ weaknesses and while a new center-back was right, the addition of Yokuslu should help keep them from losing goals.
West Brom still has a lot to do of course, but they can be happy with their January business. It could make all the difference as the Premier League survival race intensifies.