View: How Livermore has transformed from mediocre midfield hardman into 'Captain Fantastico'
If for whatever reason the season has to end right now, then Jake Livermore has to be named as the player of the season for West Brom.
While many would argue that the likes of Matheus Pereira, Semi Ajayi and maybe even Hal Robson-Kanu deserve to be in contention for the award, it is Livermore, 30, who has been the stand-out player for the Baggies this term.
Livermore never had been much of a favourite among West Brom supporters before Slaven Bilic was appointed in charge.
He was always seen as the slow, one-paced, bulky midfield hardman who was a perfect Tony Pulis-style midfielder.
After dropping into the Championship at the end of the 2017/18 season, Livermore was one of the players who stayed on despite being an England international not too long before relegation but he never really asserted himself under the charge of Darren Moore.
The ex-Tottenham midfielder remained that kind of midfielder that Pulis wanted in his side but West Brom were no longer a team fighting for their lives in the Premier League. They were a team trying to play good, fluid football and were winning the majority of their games as they aimed to win promotion from the Championship.
Livermore’s role had become redundant.
Moore, perhaps owing to his lack of experience, failed to address this issue but there’s no denying that Bilic completely transformed Livermore during his first summer in charge.
The 30-year-old is now a far leaner player, more athletic, more able to get himself up and down the pitch and help West Brom in their attacking and defensive phases of play.
According to stats by WhoScored, you can see how much more Livermore has improved the attacking side of his game as this season.
He’s scored more goals and supplied more assists in a similar amount of game-time while he’s also averaged more shots at goal, key passes and dribbles than he did last term as the Baggies fell short in their bid for promotion.
You would think that Livermore improving the attacking side of his game would lead to a negative effect on his defensive stats – but that isn’t necessarily the case.
The ex-Hull man has averaged 0.5 more tackles per game this season than he did last term, although his numbers for interceptions and clearances are down.
Livermore has transformed into a far more well-rounded midfielder under Bilic and his goal in the 2-0 win against Preston last month completely sums up what he is about now.
Livermore won possession with a tackle in his own defensive-third, as shown below, before springing a counter-attack through Hal Robson-Kanu and Callum Robinson.
There were only 13 seconds between him winning possession and getting himself into the goalscoring position that is shown in the image below.
Robson-Kanu touched the ball down, allowing Livermore to rifle the ball into the back of the net for his third goal of the season.
Before this season, West Brom fans didn’t have a song for Livermore.
Why would they? As harsh as it sounds, he was pretty much there making up the numbers in most of his appearances, playing a deep, defensive-midfield role that hardly got fans on their feet.
But now, he’s turned into ‘Captain Fantastico’ for the Baggies and has been the club’s most valuable player in their bid for a return to the Premier League.
In other West Brom news, this European club has set its sights on Bilic.