If there is going to be what would be the most remarkable of escapes for the Baggies, we will certainly need to see signs of it when Albion play their first ever game at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Sam Allardyce has done what he could in the transfer window, albeit not everything he would have liked to do, and made five additions to the squad with a possible sixth given that Ahmed Musa is being assessed on trial.
Tuesday defeat at Bramall Lane was a massive blow, but that in itself does not make Albion’s challenge impossible. It has been very difficult for weeks, and that Sheffield United are enjoying an uplift in form does not make it easier, but if the Blades believe there is still a chance, then the Baggies should feel the same.
We’ve already seen some positive influence from Snodgrass and Diagne, but we will hopefully seem much more once Maitland-Niles and Yokuşlu come into the side. The expectation is that the young Arsenal player will start against Spurs – he will be desperate to play as much football as possible with a target of getting into Gareth Southgate’s squad for the Euros in the summer and, having been sidelined by Mikael Arteta, he has opted to come to the Hawthorns knowing that he is likely to be a regular starter.
And if Ainsley didn’t have enough motivation to make a good impression on his Albion debut, the fact that it is against his parent club’s arch rivals will only increase his desire to do well.
As for Yokuşlu, Allardyce has set the expectation that he will be on the bench for Sunday’s match. He has started just five matches for Celta de Vigo this campaign with the Argentinian Celta head coach, Eduardo Coudet, preferring Peruvian midfielder, Renato Tapia, at the base of midfield since his move from Feyenoord in the summer. Big Sam feels that he will need some time to get up to speed in the Premier League, but it is time that Albion don’t have.
Along with Diagne, the Turk is coming in to improve an area of the pitch in which the Baggies have had real problems this season, and his signing could be the most important. If he can take the pressure off the back four, it could be a massive boost and Albion really need him to get up to speed as quickly as possible.
It is, perhaps, useful that the next two matches are against Spurs and United, two sides that they will not be expecting to take points off. That will give the new boys time to get up to speed in time for the run of four games against side in the bottom half that follow. Not that Albion can really afford to write off these two matches. Under Slaven Bilić, they were a tad unlucky to come away from the two reverse fixtures without a point, and that Baggies will be hoping to take advantage of the poor run of form that José Mourinho’s side are currently enduring.
Harry Kane has scored seven of the last ten goals that Spurs have scored against Albion, and his absence undoubtedly makes Mourinho’s side less potent, although they still have plenty of good players. It will still need the Baggies to be at their best and Spurs well below theirs for Albion to get anything.
Having said that, this campaign has been littered with odd results, not least Albion’s draws at Anfield and the Etihad and, of course, Sheffield United’s win at Old Trafford. Who’s to say there won’t be another one at Spurs on Sunday?