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Talking Tactics

West Brom signings must shine to shock Man Utd

Adrian Clarke 11 Feb 2021

Adrian Clarke says Okay Yokuslu and Mbaye Diagne can boost Baggies' hopes of avoiding relegation

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points in Matchweek 24.

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West Bromwich Albion head coach Sam Allardyce must quickly develop a new formula that allows his four January signings to flourish.

Robert Snodgrass, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Mbaye Diagne and Okay Yokuslu should all feature against Manchester United on Sunday.

Shackling Fernandes

West Brom have lacked an effective defensive midfielder this season and Yokuslu now has the chance to make that role his own after arriving on loan from Celta Vigo.

Jake Livermore and Romaine Sawyers have both played in that position, but neither is a natural ball-winner.

They have won just 1.34 tackles and 1.09 tackles per 90 respectively this term, and for a side averaging 37 per cent of possession, that is not enough.

By contrast, Yokuslu attempted three tackles in only 12 minutes on the pitch in West Brom's 2-0 loss at Tottenham Hotspur last time out, winning the ball each time.

Yokuslu in training

Whether he is used in a double-pivot in front of the defence or as the sole holding midfielder, Yokuslu will have a key role this weekend as he attempts to shackle Bruno Fernandes.

Dangerous Diagne

Diagne, meanwhile, has made an instant impact since arriving on loan from Galatasaray.

The Senegalese striker supplied a quality low cross on his debut to set up a Matheus Pereira goal at home against Fulham.

Diagne sets up goal v Fulham

His close-range shot was then parried for Matt Phillips to score from a rebound in a 2-1 loss at Sheffield United.

And last time out, he had two goals disallowed against Spurs, while a header was superbly saved on the goalline by Hugo Lloris.

Diagne stats in last three matches
Opponent Spurs Sheff Utd Fulham
Aerial duels 16 3 10
Offsides 4 2 1

Diagne, who scored nine goals in 10 league starts for Galatasaray earlier on this campaign, is a threat in the air.

Against Fulham and Spurs, he was involved in a total of 26 aerial duels in 135 minutes of action, a sign that Allardyce is encouraging his team to be more direct.

While he has also been caught offside a number of times, this could be seen as a positive sign, showing he is a striker who wants to play on the shoulder of the last man.

Premier League experience 

Snodgrass and Maitland-Niles will give Allardyce extra tactical options between now and the end of the season.

Verstaile midfielder Snodgrass has already been used out wide and in central midfield, and he is a terrific crosser with his left foot, boasting 37.5 per cent accuracy this season.

If he establishes an understanding with Diagne, it could be the source of important goals.

Maitland-Niles, who is on loan from Arsenal, will provide poise and athleticism in central midfield or as a full-back.

Winning formula

It is crucial for Allardyce to find the most effective way of fitting this quartet into his starting XI while also getting the best from Pereira.

The Brazilian has been directly involved in eight goals this season, five more than any team-mate, scoring five and setting up three.

Allardyce will hope this group of players can inspire West Brom to just their third Premier League win of 2020/21, and his first over Man Utd in five years.

Also in this series

Part 2: Will a false nine help Guardiola overcome Mourinho?
Part 3: Fleck can bypass Soucek to continue Sheff Utd revival

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