West Brom’s woeful plight in the Premier League continued this weekend as they succumbed to their 17th defeat of the season at the hands of Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
It was already looking like an uphill task for Sam Allardyce, but now relegation seems like a mere formality with the Baggies some nine points adrift of safety, and that could become a greater margin as Brighton possess a game in hand.
In recent weeks, Albion’s leaky defence has transformed into one capable of mixing it with the best in the top-flight, having conceded only three goals in six matches, in which they have played Europe-chasing sides like Manchester United and Everton.
It’s at the other end of the pitch where Sam Allardyce has struggled to spark much of a reaction.
Who is Albion’s best centre-back?
And despite holding the worst defensive record in the division by seven goals, there has been one major positive from the season so far – Dara O’Shea.
The young 22-year-old academy graduate has been performing that well he’s managed to keep Semi Ajayi out of the starting XI ever since his return from suspension and against the Eagles, he was perhaps their only shining light.
O’Shea was only one of three Baggies stars to receive a 7.0 SofaScore rating or better, whilst BirminghamLive – who gave their Man of the Match award to Okay Yokuslu – claimed the Irishman’s ‘no-nonsense clearances and disciplined shape meant that Albion negated the attacking front-line of Palace.’
It wasn’t his fault that a silly error saw them concede a penalty, so he should be pleased with his performance besides that.
As per SofaScore, no Albion player made more tackles (four) than O’Shea and he also contributed with four clearances and two interceptions, so he very much was a rock against the differing threats of Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke.
This is also backed up by how strong he was in his battles, having also won 13 of 18 duels (72%), both on the ground and in the air as per SofaScore.
Again, no other visiting player managed to win as many duels – not even central defensive partner Kyle Bartley who won 50% of his 14 attempts – the fact that the lesser experienced O’Shea nearly matched Bartley’s total speaks volumes on his ability.
It’s now five straight appearances in the Premier League for the Hawthorns graduate, and in that run, he’s not dipped below a 6.8 average rating, which means he’s performing well above the mean (6.56).
The 6 foot 1 beast has been lauded “exceptional” in the past and unlike Yoksulu, he’s actually their player, so there’s a better chance of him having an increased role should they go back down to the Championship.
Once again, he was Big Sam’s shining light.
AND in other news, Allardyce could unlock Diagne by unleashing £20k-p/w “team player”…