West Brom may have uncovered a vital piece of the puzzle as they look to achieve the unthinkable and stave off relegation from the Premier League.
The Baggies remain 11 points adrift of safety, but performances have been much more encouraging in recent weeks, so much so that they now actually look like a side capable of competing in the top-flight.
But is it too little, too late?
It’s no coincidence that their form has transformed thanks to the loan arrival of Okay Yokuslu from Celta Vigo as he’s slotted in seamlessly and made an instant impact.
If only he’d been there from the start of the season…
That’s better than the top-scoring Matheus Pereira (6.74) and arguable Player of the Year, Sam Johnstone (6.58).
Albion have leaked 12 more goals (55) than any other Premier League team after 25 games played, though in his two starts for the Midlands outfit, they have conceded just once, that coming in a 1-1 draw with title contenders Manchester United.
Prior to his involvement, West Brom had let in at least two goals in nine successive matches in all competitions, so that only reinforces his immediate influence, tenfold.
Yokuslu’s work-rate and positioning off the ball as an anchorman in front of the leaky backline has been much-needed. Across those two games, he has managed a total of four interceptions and five clearances, via WhoScored, sweeping up a lot of the work that the likes of Jake Livermore and Romaine Sawyers were struggling to do.
This would be enough to see him top the charts for interceptions with both of the Baggies’ left-back options averaging 1.6 per game.
Club captain Kyle Bartley has also noted his impact, he told the official website:
“He seems to have settled in really quickly which is always important for a player at a new club. You can see already that he’s a really good player,” before adding: “He’s tenacious. He’s good on the ball. He’s calm and composed. I think he’s made a big difference in there.”
The 26-year-old monster has added a new dimension to Sam Allardyce’s midfield – the sort of role that has been long missing since the days of Claudio Yacob, who was a key cog of the Hawthorns side that finished eighth under Steve Clarke in 2012/13 – yes, that long.
Across 176 league games in English football, the industrious Argentine averaged 3.1 tackles, two clearances and 1.9 interceptions per game, via WhoScored – all similar returns to that of Yokuslu, in already a short time.
Allardyce may well have unearthed Albion’s next Yacob and regardless of the division they’ll be competing in next season, the club needs to tie him down permanently, something that his parent club are expecting to happen, according to AS.
AND in other news, £17.5k-p/w “real competitor” deserves new West Brom contract