When club names such as West Brom and Paris Saint Germain or Swansea and Bayern Munich are taken together in a sentence, it is generally expected that the bigger European teams from the continent must have fancied a player from these lower-half Premier League teams. This transfer window, we saw something else. We saw both West Brom and Swansea sign PSG and Bayern players (respectively), albeit on loan deals.
One day before the transfer frenzy in England reached its crescendo, West Bromwich Albion announced that they had signed Polish international, Grzegorz Krychowiak on a season-long loan from PSG. The defensive midfielder is a two-times Europa League winner and has had experience of playing for European majors such as Sevilla and PSG. Directionally, it was quite an interesting deal as it is not usual for West Brom to get layers from PSG – in last 10 seasons, only three players have moved from the French capital to West Brom.
However unusual the feat is but Tony Pulis’ side have achieved it. So, let us take a look at Kryhowiak’s profile and see how can Pulis make the most of his high-profile loanee.
The Polish player joined Bordeaux’s youth team in 2007 from his hometown in Poland. Post this, he spent next five years on loan across Ligue 2 and Ligue 1 clubs, before joining Reims in the July of 2012. This was followed by a sale to Sevilla in 2014 summer, which ushered in two of the best seasons for Krychowiak. He won the Europa League twice under Unai Emery for Sevilla, who poached him into PSG, once he himself went off to the Parisian club. However, he could not get a starting spot in the French giant’s midfield, hence he started only seven games in the league last season and came in as a substitute in four others.
Krychowiak is a defensive midfielder, who is good at aerial duels, blocking the ball, ball interception, and tackling. These attributes helped him a lot when playing for Emery at Sevilla because the Spanish side play a direct attacking brand of football. But at PSG, where more creativity is demanded from the midfield, he seemed like a misfit. This alignment with a more direct style of football, must have been the factor because of which we see the player at Hawthorns.
As would be expected from a player of such a profile, his defensive stats were much higher for Sevilla than for PSG. Krychowiak put in 2.5 tackles, 4.5 interceptions, 3 clearances and 0.6 blocks per game in La Liga. But for PSG, he put in only 1.7 tackles, 1.6 interceptions, 2.7 clearances and 0.3 blocks per game. This change in stats is reflective of the different tactics Unai Emery has employed at PSG, versus what he used to employ at Sevilla.
Another example of a change in Krychowiak’s numbers can be seen in his passing stats. After coming to Paris, his passing stats have improved dramatically, as he averages more passes (55.3 vs 45.9) per game, better pass success rate (92.8% vs 84.3%) and more key passes (0.3 vs 0.2) per game, as compared to his passing stats for Sevilla.
Krychowiak’s history suggests that he was more comfortable for Sevilla than for PSG. For Sevilla, he got far more game time (2271 minutes in 2015-16), as compared to the minimal time he got last year at PSG (659 minutes). For Sevilla in 2015-16, he earned an average WhoScored rating of 7.23, which is very respectable over 26 appearances. But, for PSG last season he only got an average rating of 6.87.
How Well Would He Fit into West Brom
For Tony Pulis and West Brom fans, these stats would be extremely encouraging as it clearly shows that their major loan signing this window is more comfortable playing as a defensive midfielder in a direct setup, as compared to a deep playmaker in a creative setup. And there are few teams in Europe as direct as Tony Pulis’ West Brom.
West Brom have played with a combination of Jake Livermore and Gareth Barry in the midfield so far this season. Krychowiak is an upgrade over both these players. Not only does Krychowiak possess better passing range and accuracy than both Livermore and Barry, he is also better than both of them in terms of defensive actions such as tackles, interceptions, and clearances.
Overall it seems that Tony Pulis has upgraded his midfield significantly without incurring a huge cost. Krychowiak can provide him similar attributes as his current midfielders, just at a better level. For the player, this move is an opportunity to prove to the world that the last season, when he faltered at PSG, was an aberration and if he is given the right setup he can excel. This is one piece of transfer business that West Brom fans should be very happy about.