It has been another exciting beginning to the Championship season, but Slaven Bilic and his influence at the Hawthorns has certainly got everybody in the division talking. Bilic arrived at West Bromwich Albion trying to pick the squad up following their agonising defeat to Aston Villa in the Championship playoffs.
Not just that, but he also needed to start the season without their influential striker Dwight Gayle who was their top scorer in the previous campaign. The Baggies were unable to come to an agreement with Newcastle United on a new deal for this season. However, they were able to bring in Charlie Austin from Southampton, which was meant to be the like-for-like replacement.
Austin has yet to hit the ground running for the Albion and has only scored once in his eleven appearances. His lack of form has seen him replaced in the starting line-up over recent weeks. Hal Robson-Kanu has replaced him over the last couple of games, and he is already showing some of his best form in the Albion colours.
The Welshman was expected to leave the club in the summer, but he eventually put pen to paper on a new deal in October. Since then, he has played a crucial role in the squad and has scored four goals in ten appearances. Bilic should take a lot of credit for the Welshman’s strong start to the season.
The area of the field where no side in the Championship can compete with the Albion is in the middle of the park. The depth that they have in these positions means that Bilic can alternative depending on how much experience he needs for a fixture. However, the quality that comes with players such as Matheus Perriera and Romaine Sawyers means that there is much more to this Albion midfield.
Both of the central players have an eye for a pass and are among the early front runners for the player of the season accolade; particularly Sawyers, who epitomises precisely what Bilic is trying to do at the Black Country club. Sawyers has added a lot to his game this season, and he is deployed in a deeper position compared to where he played for Walsall.
He has already scored one goal this season and added an assist. He already boasts an outstanding 92% pass completion rate this season and averages 1.2 key passes per game for the Albion.
Perriera is deployed ahead of Sawyers and has been instrumental throughout the Albion’s first weeks of the season. He has averaged an 82.6% pass completion rate and has already scored three goals in his eleven appearances this season. As well as that, he has also contributed six assists this season. These two midfielders influence the Baggies attack, and they also compliment Jake Livermore in the midfield as the holding midfielder will do much of the ball winning. Any side coming up against the Albion will have a host of problems when trying to win the battle in the midfield.
The backline has also undergone a massive change since Bilic arrived. The Albion have transitioned from a back five into a back four, and only Kyle Bartley remains a regular fixture in their side this season. Connor Townsend has been a welcome addition to the senior side after coming up through the ranks, while Semi Ajayi has been a wonderful central defensive partner for Bartley since arriving from Rotherham United over the summer.
He averages 0.9 tackles per game and makes an average of 4.2 clearances per fixture. Meanwhile, Darnell Furlong has also been a welcome addition in the right-back slot. He has already scored once this season, and his prowess in the air bolsters the Albion defence. He also averages 1.1 key passes per game and 1.2 crosses per game.
It should come as little surprise that the Baggies are the outright favourites to win the Championship this season, just like the New England Patriots are favourites for the Superbowl 2020 bets. It looks unlikely to change if they can continue in this form.