Only the unimaginable will keep West Brom in the Premier League this season.
The Baggies are ten points adrift of safety with only nine games left to play.
You’d think the Midlands outfit would need to win the bulk of their remaining matches but, given they have won just twice since Sam Allardyce was appointed in mid-December, that seems an extraordinary task.
With relegation a mere formality at this stage, it would be wise to start planning ahead for their likely Championship return.
Aside from the big question mark over Sam Allardyce, who is in line to receive the first relegation of his career at 66, there are plenty of other conundrums facing Luke Dowling and the Albion hierarchy.
The current squad is awash with loan players – Chelsea’s Conor Gallagher, Arsenal’s Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Celta Vigo powerhouse Okay Yokuslu are three in this bracket, though it’s hard to imagine them returning permanently for a spell in the second tier.
However, Mbaye Diagne – a striker signed from Galatasaray – could be a viable option. Whilst an option-to-buy clause in his deal is dependant on survival, there have been reports from Turkey suggesting that he’s unlikely to return to the Super Lig, with West Brom able to pay just £4m to keep hold of him following relegation.
Ultimately, that’s a bargain in today’s money. In the summer of their promotion campaign, the Baggies splashed £8m on Kenneth Zohore, and look how that turned out.
Diagne has made a massive impact at The Hawthorns despite scoring only once. Ex-Albion striker Kevin Campbell lauded the 29-year-old when speaking to Football Insider, saying: “Diagne is showing very promising signs. He is quick, strong, aggressive and he took his goal brilliantly against Manchester United.”
The 6 foot 4 target man has all the attributes to absolutely thrive in the Championship, just as Campbell says he has the perfect combination of pace and power.
“I’m big and strong, I can hold up the ball and lay it off, I’m good in the air and I’m a finisher,” said Diagne to The Guardian.
In the Premier League, most teams are focused on possession-based play, keeping the ball on the ground and intense pressing. That’s vastly different in the Championship, where managers like Mick McCarthy and Neil Warnock are still deploying tactics from the dark ages (to good effect, though).
For example, McCarthy’s Cardiff City have scored more goals from set pieces (23) than open play (22) – no team in the top flight has managed such a feat this term.
Diagne is already winning the most battles in the air at West Brom, averaging 4.3 successful aerial duels per game, more than Allardyce’s first-choice centre-backs Kyle Bartley (3.5), Semi Ajayi (2.4) and Dara O’Shea (3.1), via WhoScored.
As described by Turkish reporter Berk Gol to the Express & Star, the Senegalese powerhouse is “very dangerous in the box” and is largely most effective inside the penalty area.
Signing the £6m-rated forward permanently for only £4m would not only be a massive bargain from Dowling but could also give Albion an absolutely unstoppable force in the Championship, so the Baggies must secure Diagne this summer.
AND in other news, £6m-rated “huge talent” could be like a new signing for West Brom in Championship…