Talking Tactics

West Brom loan duo have pace to trouble Wolves

By Adrian Clarke 1 May 2021
Gallagher and Maitland-Niles, West Brom

Adrian Clarke says energy of Maitland-Niles and Gallagher can keep team's hopes of safety alive

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Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points in Matchweek 34.

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Talented loanees Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Conor Gallagher have adapted their styles well to suit West Bromwich Albion.

The Arsenal and Chelsea youngsters are both skilful players who combine to good effect as industrious box-to-box midfielders.

They will be of vital importance to West Brom's hopes of beating Wolverhampton Wanderers, whom they face on Monday sitting 19th in the table and 11 points from safety.

Driving force

The duo could again be stationed in front of Okay Yokuslu if head coach Sam Allardyce opts for a three-man midfield. From there it is their job to provide technical quality and athleticism.

Playing for a side who want to counter-attack, their ability to push West Brom up the pitch faster than the likes of Jake Livermore and Romaine Sawyers has stood out.

On transitions Maitland-Niles averages 3.1 attempted dribbles per 90 minutes, a high number for a central midfielder. Gallagher, meanwhile, tries 2.25 take-ons per 90 minutes.

Upping the tempo

The introduction of the loan pair has helped West Brom perform at a quicker tempo on and off the ball.

Chelsea’s Gallagher, 21, is exceptionally fast for a midfield player. He has registered a top speed of 36.05 kilometres per hour this season.

Getting around the pitch quickly means he recovers possession well. He has made more tackles than any team-mate.

The same applies to Maitland-Niles, who registers an average of 18 sprints per 90 minutes.

Duo's running stats
2020/21 Maitland-Niles Club rank* Gallagher Club rank*
Sprints/90 18 2nd 13.4 6th
Top speed 34.08km/hr 6th 36.05km/hr 2nd
Distance covered/90 10.8km 7th 11.2km 3rd

*minimum 10 starts

At their parent clubs Maitland-Niles and Gallagher are accustomed to making numerous passes inside the middle third.

This happens less frequently at West Brom, a side who average only 37 per cent possession in the Premier League.

Instead they are asked to act as supplementary defenders during periods when the team sit back.

Then, once the ball is transferred into the opposition half, Maitland-Niles and Gallagher are charged with picking up second balls and linking play in more advanced areas.

Maitland-Niles’ performance in the 3-0 win at home to Southampton perfectly highlighted the responsibilities he has been given by Allardyce.

He also dropped in to act as an extra defender on the edge of his own box to break up attacks to great effect.

West Brom 3-0 Southampton highlights

At the other end of the pitch his powerful running helps him press and pick up loose balls in advanced positions.

The 23-year-old rarely shows for a pass inside his own half but is extremely active when Allardyce’s side achieve possession beyond the halfway line.

Derby double target

Neither Maitland-Niles nor Gallagher featured in West Brom’s excellent 3-2 triumph at Wolves in mid-January.

Only a win will do for a Baggies side hoping to claim a fourth consecutive victory against their Black Country rivals.

Recent displays suggest that both players are in line to start, and their inclusion could certainly test a Wolves midfield struggling to deliver consistent form.

Also in this series

Part 1: How Iheanacho is thriving in new Leicester attack
Part 2: Bissouma can give Brighton cutting edge against Leeds

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