West Brom manager Slaven Bilic has hailed goalkeeper Sam Johnstone for his performance during the Baggies 1-0 defeat to Manchester United on Saturday.
Johnstone pulled off a number of good saves against his former club, including saving a Bruno Fernandes penalty.
A VAR review showed that he came off his line and Fernandes scored on the second try, but Bilic was impressed nonetheless.
“I said to my staff and I said to myself that we need five or six core players to play consistently well this season,” he told the club’s official website.
“One of those has to be the goalkeeper. Sam is playing his part excellently. Not only in the last game against Manchester United, but in plenty of games this season he has been terrific.
“We are going to need him in every game. Sam deserves the praise he is getting because he is playing incredibly well. I’m really pleased for him. He’s a good guy. He works hard, every day. He is focused. I want him to continue playing well.”
Johnstone has come in for some criticism this season, with his detractors highlighting his weaknesses coming off his line to claim crosses.
This was in evidence against Tottenham Hotspur, where the 27-year-old was left in no man’s land trying to claim a cross, allowing Harry Kane to score a late winner.
However, Johnstone was undeniably excellent against United, saving from Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford brilliantly.
His shot stopping has rarely been questioned by his critics and he again showed it as a real strength. In terms of post-shot expected goals minus goals allowed per 90 minutes, Johnstone rates as the best shot stopper in the league so far this season (via FBRef).
If he can improve his decision making and become more commanding, he can develop into an outstanding player for the Baggies.
In other West Brom news, Chris Wilder has responded to links between West Brom and a Sheffield Utd player