CAN WEST BROM REALLY AVOID RELEGATION AFTER LAST WEEKENDS SHOCK WIN?
In a dramatic twist of events, West Brom are suddenly the talk of the town. Goals from Matheus Pereira, Callum Robinson and Mbaye Diagne helped the Baggies to a stunning 5-2 win away to Chelsea and, in tandem, rekindled astray ambitions of survival.
If you were to indulge in the match without any form of knowledge or understanding on how the season has panned out, you would not have dared to assume that the Baggies were indeed gnawing in the midst of a relegation dogfight.
Instead, they embodied everything they have not quite had this campaign. For a side with by far the division’s worst defensive record, their backline was manned well for much of the affair, omitting an aura of astuteness to contain a threatening Chelsea frontline.
But, going forward, West Brom really ramped it up a notch or ten, even. Matheus Pereira- who so often proves to be his team’s prodigious orchestrator spotlighted his talents to optimum, soldering his name on the scoresheet twice to go in harmony with two assists.
And whereas Pereira has embraced a fair portion of success over the current season, the likes of Robinson, Diagne and Phillips also emerged as unlikely heroes to stifle Chelsea’s defence which is no mean feat when you account simply how unshakeable Thomas Tuchel’s comrades have been at the back in recent weeks.
It really did epitomise the whimsical, unpredictable nature of the Premier League. Chelsea headed into the affair burdening a 14-match unbeaten run and had only conceded two goals in 1,305 minutes of football, though that would be paralleled by Pereira’s brace in first-half stoppage time.
West Brom, on the other hand, had not become as accustomed to the sweet, nectar taste of triumph; the West Midlands side travelled to the Bridge having only won three times all season and, by all accounts, were long dismissed as relegation inevitables.
That said, the enrapturing encounter has served a buffet of food for thought in regards to West Brom’s survival hopes, which have embraced an undoubted elevation as a result.
What lies ahead for the Albion?
Well, to be honest, Sam Allardyce’s men have not been blessed with the rub of the green when it comes to the fixture schedule in the season’s twilight.
Next Monday bodes a home fixture against Ralph Hassenhutl’s Southampton, who have also surfed a turbulent tide more recently. After sitting pretty at the league’s summit back in November, the Saints have capitulated dramatically and are now shrouded in mid-table following a bleak run of three wins from 18 matches.
This could serve as an advantageous outlet for West Brom to capitalise upon. With little to compete and play for at this stage, you do feel that complacency may begin to transition as far as Southampton are concerned.
With all things considered, the clash is undoubtedly typified as a must win for the Baggies and the pulse-raising significance it bears is only intensified when you extend your vision to what beckons further on.
Coming right after is a short, whilst ever-so-daunting trip across the Midlands, which will see them cross swords with Leicester City.
And here, we have two sides possessing contrastingly disparitive ambitions, with the Foxes in pole position to secure a top four place after another thoroughly successful season. At the time of writing, Brendan Rodgers’ 3rd-placed side are basking in the comforting warmth of a seven-point gap over West Ham United, who currently occupy 5th spot.
From there on, the onerous fixtures continue to ensue as West Brom face back-to-back West Midlands Derbies with Aston Villa and Wolves before a disconcerting, decisive final four games against Arsenal, Liverpool, West Ham and Leeds.
Subsequently, it is nothing short of imperative that the Albion clinch as many sacred points as possible, for the final four matches will provide a truly challenging conclusion in their survival bid.
Can they pull off the great escape? My verdict
Whilst it would paint a heartening narrative, it does seem that any form of a resurrection has been left slightly too late.
Take nothing away from it, Saturday’s thrilling triumph was a phenomenal result, but it could materialise as something of a false illusion.
And, owing to Newcastle’s 2-2 draw against Spurs on Sunday afternoon, West Brom are now bridged from safety by a colossal nine points and they still have 18th-placed Fulham to eclipse, too.
Newcastle themselves are harnessed with a tight run in, with West Ham, Liverpool, Arsenal, Leicester and Manchester City all pencilled on the schedule as the season draws to a close, though with two of the three sides currently occupying the relegation zone still to play, they are probably out of reach for the Baggies.
However, that is not to say that Sam Allardyce- who is a bonafide expert at constructing relegation escapes- will see his side go down without a fight as there are a fair share of talented footballers currently at the Hawthorns.
Brazilian maestro Pereira is undoubtedly the pick of the bunch, yet, ranging from Okay Yokuslu to Connor Gallagher to England International Ainsley Maitland-Niles, quality certainly looms throughout their ranks.
That talent has shone through at times, though as a collective, I feel West Brom may have left it too late. Sure, there is nothing stopping a late surge as the season ticks into the business end, but there are many, many matches that the Baggies will look back on with a pounding force of angst and regret.
For example, a recent 0-0 draw to fellow strugglers Newcastle could come back to haunt them. That will be laced together with the frustration of a 2-2 draw at home to Fulham, or worse still, a defeat to Sheffield United, who have only won four times all term and are rooted to the foot of the table.
Such fortunes bear irony, mind. West Brom have actually taken points from Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City and acclaimed four from a possible six points against Chelsea. As good as this looks, to prevail, you need to beat the teams around you- your direct competition.
West Brom have failed to do so and that could turn out to be their downfall.
To conclude, I personally believe that survival may be achingly unattainable for the Baggies. I do feel they will come close and, if they can string a consistent run together, there is no reason why they cannot knock on the safety door, but given the sheer difficulty of their fixture list, doing so could be beyond realism.