West Brom were incredibly unfortunate against Manchester United on Saturday, with refereeing decisions at both ends going against them.
However, Branislav Ivanovic struggled throughout and Slaven Bilic should take the Serbian out of the side before their crucial meeting with Sheffield United next Saturday.
The former Chelsea man was not available against Tottenham Hotspur and the Baggies put in one of their better defensive performances of the season.
Aside from Harry Kane’s late winner, the Baggies did a great job of limiting Spurs to quality chances and created 12 shots of their own (via WhoScored). With Semi Ajayi and Dara O’Shea flanking Kyle Bartley, they pushed higher up the pitch and prevented Spurs from finding space in between the lines.
Against United though, the Baggies brought Ivanovic back in and they reverted to some of the bad habits that were evident against Fulham. According to FBRef, West Brom allowed 2.5 expected goals against United, their second-worst xGA in a single game of the season.
For Anthony Martial’s early chance Ivanovic completely lost the Frenchman, leaving him entirely open in the middle of the box, and he failed to make an impact throughout. Ajayi completed three tackles and five interceptions against United, while the Serbian made just one tackle (via WhoScored).
The Nigerian international was also far better on the ball, completing 30 passes and three final third entry passes, while Ivanovic made just 20 passes. Meanwhile, Bartley made 41 passes and four final third entry passes (via FBRef).
Ajayi and Bartley are still improving and adapting to the Premier League, but they still have the athleticism and energy to match up with the league’s best attackers.
Ivanovic though looks slow and unable to impact games at this level. If you are going to play him, the middle pivot of a back three makes most sense, but he simply is not offering the ball progression that you would usually with a player in that role.
Against the Blades, Bilic should either bring O’Shea into the back three or switch system. But based on his display against United, Ivanovic should not start.
In other West Brom news, Chris Wilder has responded to links between West Brom and a Sheffield Utd player