Why Trent and Salah could wreak havoc up against West Brom’s “trier”

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Liverpool visit already-relegated West Brom on Sunday, so we found out where it’s all gone wrong for the Baggies this season.

The Reds won 4-2 away to Man United on Thursday night, in what was one of their most important victories of the season.

Next up for Jurgen Klopp‘s side is a trip to the Hawthorns this weekend, in what represents a dead rubber for the beleaguered Baggies.

Sam Allardyce has failed to steer his team away from the relegation zone, meaning Championship football beckons once again in 2021/22.

Ahead of the game, we spoke to journalist Paul Suart (@PaulSuartWBA) to hear about West Brom‘s woes, his assessment of Liverpool’s campaign and much more.

 

How would you assess West Brom’s season?

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - Tuesday, January 26, 2021: West Bromwich Albion's captain Jake Livermore (L #8) speaks to his players at half-time with them 4-0 down during the FA Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion FC and Manchester City FC at The Hawthorns. Manchester City won 5-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Having suffered relegation with three games still to play it obviously has to go down as a major disappointment.

The Baggies have been inside the bottom three since October and have remained 19th since November.

They have looked relegation certainties for the vast majority of the season and, after so little investment in the team last summer, that is an especially bitter pill for Albion fans to swallow.

I suppose there’s a question of what might have been had the board moved to replace Slaven Bilic a little quicker.

The Croatian was an extremely popular figure at the Hawthorns, having guided them to promotion at the first time of asking.

But, in truth, his team limped over the line last season and carried that stuttering form into the new Premier League campaign.

They failed to win any of their first nine games and I guess the die was cast from that point on.

 

Would you stick with Sam Allardyce moving forward?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 23, 2017: Everton's manager Sam Allardyce during the FA Premier League match between Everton and Chelsea at Goodison Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Big Sam endured a very difficult start to life as West Brom manager, it would be fair to say. Albion lost the first four home matches of his tenure to an aggregate score of 0-17.

But they have improved significantly, owing much to the integration of the players Allardyce signed on loan in January.

To that end, he has proved his worth as a good judge of talent, as a shrewd tactician and as a motivator – I think the consensus among the Albion fanbase is for him to remain at the club.

Albion would most likely stand a better chance of coming straight back up with Allardyce in charge. I think he could attract a better calibre of player than many other managers in the second tier.

Whichever direction the Baggies board go in, it is imperative they do so quickly to give the club the best possible opportunity of an immediate return to the big time.

 

Who have been West Brom’s three best players this season?

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - Tuesday, January 26, 2021: West Bromwich Albion's goalkeeper Sam Johnstone during the FA Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion FC and Manchester City FC at The Hawthorns. Manchester City won 5-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I remember you asking me this before Albion’s visit to Anfield in December – I think I went with Sam Johnstone, Conor Gallagher and Semi Ajayi, who obviously scored the equaliser.

Johnstone is the only one of that trio I would stick with regards to Player of the Season. He has conceded more goals than any other top-flight goalkeeper, but he’s also made the most saves.

Albion’s goal difference would be far more unsightly if not for his displays, which quite rightly led to a first England callup in March.

Gallagher has not featured as much under Allardyce and Ajayi’s form has dipped over the second part of the season, so I would replace them with Matheus Pereira and Okay Yokuslu.

Albion’s top scorer with 11 goals in all competitions, including five in his last six games, Pereira has shown he can more than handle the Premier League and has often been West Brom‘s main source of creativity.

Yokuslu has transformed Albion’s lethargic midfield where Jake Livermore and Romaine Sawyers had struggled to get to grips with the step up from the Championship.

The Turkey international has made a huge impact, and despite having only made his debut on February 7, he has become a bit of a cult figure among fans.

 

Have any individuals been poor?

Yes, and there’s probably too many to mention by name.

Not that I want to dig him out because he’s a really likeable guy, but I think the biggest disappointment from an Albion perspective is Grady Diangana – and that’s mainly because he is just so talented.

You might recall the hoo-ha at West Ham after they sold him to the Baggies last summer.

Club captain Mark Noble publicly criticised the decision because he knew just how gifted Diangana was and how much potential he has, but it just hasn’t worked out for the England under-21s man.

He has had his fair share of injuries, but when opportunities arrived he wasn’t able to deliver the end product that marked him out as one of the most feared players in the Championship last season.

 

Switching our attention to Liverpool, why do you think they have struggled this season?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 24, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp speaks ot the media after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Newcastle United FC at Anfield. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Where do I start?

If I’m being totally honest, a huge swing in fortune has been integral.

Luck has deserted Liverpool this season, and as a result, all that momentum they had built slowly began to dissipate.

As has been incredibly well-documented, injuries clearly played their part. To lose so many key players in the same position is really quite unprecedented.

But Liverpool’s defensive woes have only been one part of the problem as far as I can tell as an outsider looking in.

They haven’t operated with the same efficiency right through the team and certainly haven’t been so slick as an offensive unit.

There were, however, signs during Liverpool’s impressive 4-2 win at Old Trafford of that rhythm returning.

That will be a major concern for West Brom and potentially for every member of the Premier League with one eye on next season.

 

Do you think they will secure a top-four finish?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Thursday, May 13, 2021: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (C) celebrates with team-mates Curtis Jones (L) and Rhys Williams (R) after scoring the fourth goal during the FA Premier League match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I really don’t know!

I can see Chelsea winning their last two games and that scenario would put Leicester under huge pressure in their final game against Tottenham.

Spurs might still have European involvement to play for and could put a spanner in the works for the Foxes.

Judging by that performance and result against Man United, I can see the Reds winning their final three matches.

In that instance, they would almost inevitably reach a better goal difference than Leicester, were they to finish on the same points.

So I guess, in a roundabout way, I’m saying ‘yes’.

 

Looking ahead to Sunday’s game, who do you fear most for Liverpool?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Thursday, May 13, 2021: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold puts on the captain's armband during the FA Premier League match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Trent Alexander-Arnold deservedly picked up Man of the Match at Old Trafford and I think his industry and precision crossing from the right will pose Albion real problems.

He looks to have got his mojo back at just the right time, for Liverpool and potentially England too.

Conor Townsend is a real trier and a smashing lad, too, but the left-back has limitations I can see Trent and Mohamed Salah exploiting him.

 

Where do you see the key battles taking place?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Thursday, May 13, 2021: Liverpool's Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' (L) and Manchester United's Frederico Rodrigues de Paula Santos 'Fred' during the FA Premier League match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Fabinho will have his work cut out to curb Yokuslu as a disruptive force in the centre of the park.

That being said, I expect Liverpool to have most of the ball, to push Albion back into their own defensive half and to strike killer blows from the right wing.

 

Finally, hit us with your prediction…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 27, 2020: Liverpool's Curtis Jones (R) during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Bromwich Albion FC at Anfield. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

West Brom 1-3 Liverpool.

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