We ask whether Nacer Chadli deserves to be brought straight back into West Bromwich Albion's starting eleven.
With back-to-back league wins for the first time since February, things are beginning to look up for West Bromwich Albion. Even more impressively, the Baggies managed these wins against Leicester City and Burnley without their record-signing Nacer Chadli.
The Belgian was absent from Albion’s trip to the King Power to undergo minor knee surgery, before narrowly missing out Burnley's visit following a failed fitness test.
There’s a good chance that Chadli will be fit for the Hull City game on Saturday, which means Tony Pulis has a tough decision to make whether to restore the ex-Tottenham man to the starting line-up.
Chadli wasted no time in showing West Brom supporters his quality. The 27-year-old has given Albion the clinical threat that they had been lacking ever since Saido Berahino’s form dropped off.
His performances against West Ham, Sunderland and Tottenham proved that he can bring an added spark to West Brom’s often lacklustre attacking play. At times, Chadli can be quiet in general play, but his match-winning instincts in the final-third make up for any periods of ineffectiveness.
James Morrison, who hadn’t started in the league prior to the Leicester game, came in for the injured Chadli and has been a real force in the last two fixtures. The Scottish international was at the centre of every Albion attack and chipped in with two important goals to remind Pulis of his importance to the side.
Notably, Morrison’s return to the starting eleven - along with fellow West Brom stalwart Chris Brunt – had a knock-on effect to Claudio Yacob and Darren Fletcher. The defensive duo haven’t been at their best this season but Morrison and Brunt have injected some much needed composure into Albion's midfield.
Yacob and Fletcher turned in much improved performances against Leicester and Burnley, as Morrison took responsibility for carrying the ball forward and willingly dropped deeper to receive and distribute the ball. As a result, West Brom’s midfield looked its most fluid and efficient since Pulis’ arrival at the club.
Room for both?
Tony Pulis will be grateful that he now has a group of in-form attacking midfielders vying for a place in the side, especially heading into a busy winter schedule.
This hectic run of fixtures might play into Pulis’ thinking when naming his starting eleven on Saturday. Which means the safest option would be to stick with the same starting eleven and ease Chadli back into the squad with a place on the bench.
That being said, as arguably West Brom’s most talented footballer it is hard to justify leaving Chadli out - even if it means changing a winning side. Therefore, Pulis could be tempted to find a way to accommodate both Chadli and Morrison in his starting line-up.
Perhaps the best choice would be dropping either Yacob or Fletcher and moving Morrison into a deeper role in the side. Hopefully, that switch wouldn’t negate Morrison’s influence in the team, but instead offer Albion even more attacking impetus in winnable games against Hull and Watford.
Either way, Tony Pulis will be delighted that he has some tough decisions to make for Saturday.