Kyle Bartley showed Semi Ajayi the standard he must reach v West Ham
West Brom centre-back Kyle Bartley was superb against West Ham and he completely outclassed his central defensive partner Semi Ajayi.
The centre-back has arguably been our best player since Sam Allardyce, though Okay Yokuslu and Matheus Pereira may rival him for that honour.
He has lead by example in defence and showed brilliant organisation, including against West Ham.
West Brom ultimately conceded three goals, with some questionable defending for the second especially, but Bartley should be proud of his performance.
He was tenacious in his defending, making four clearances and winning three tackles – Ajayi made zero, per WhoScored.
Bartley came up against tough opponents in Michail Antonio and Jesse Lingard but he kept them quiet for most of the match, partly because he won four out of four ground duels and eight out of nine aerial duels – winning a total of 92% of his duels [SofaScore].
His battling spirit has seen us improve in recent weeks and with a bit more quality in the side we would have had a few more wins to celebrate.
Bartley could be a big player for us next year and it is important we reject any advances for him, with Burnley said to be interested.
Albion will also need Dara O’Shea and Ajayi to step up too.
Ajayi had a game to forget on Wednesday. Within the opening minute he played Antonio through on goal with an awful back pass that resulted in a West Ham penalty.
His performance did not get much better after that with just one interception and 70% pass accuracy.
He even missed a big chance, so it was not surprising his SofaScore rating of 6.3 was the lowest of any Albion player.
We hope he has picked up and thing or two from Bartley in recent weeks.
The 29-year-old is admired by Allardyce, who is a fan of his no-nonsense style and the fact he covers the basics well.
As quoted by the Daily Mail, Big Sam said of Bartley, “He’s a nice, big centre-half like I was.
“It is nice to see him doing the right things, getting blocks. A defender must always be judged on how they defend, not playing the ball out.”
Ajayi and O’Shea have shown their qualities at times this term, but from next season we expect to see a lot more consistency in their play.
If they show that we will have a settled defence ready to take on the Championship.
In other West Brom news, ‘95% sure’ – Joe Masi drops hint on future of West Brom loan star.