What a difference a couple of weeks makes for West Brom, writes blogger Warren Stephens.
After the Tottenham game there was talk of a crisis, ill-discipline within the squad, players wanting out and a team supposedly in free-fall.
The metaphorical storm clouds forming over the Hawthorns were beginning to look greyer than Dean Saunders’ mullet, yet two games and six points later and the outlook is far brighter.
For any side outside the top six in the Premier League, the initial safety target must be around the 40-point mark, last week’s victory over Sunderland ensured Albion reached that total with 11 games to spare.
Even if a handicapped 1990-91 Albion XI were to play out the remaining fixtures, I can’t envisage that three out of the sides beneath us will overturn the points surplus we have over them.
We can now seemingly concentrate solely on what’s in front of us rather than glance cautiously over our shoulder.
We have the luxury of entering March without being party to a promotion or relegation battle, how many times since the turn of the century have we been able to say that?
I thought that some of our football against Sunderland last Saturday was exceptional, although the game was probably quite stretched we seemed to pass the ball really well.
Romelu Lukaku has taken most of the headlines and perhaps deservedly so, it was certainly as well as I’ve seen him play.
At times as a lone front man he’s never really convinced me that his hold-up and link-up play is as good as it could be.
Having Shane Long up alongside him certainly helped in that respect and at times he was virtually unplayable. He was strong, powerful and direct- shades of Fabian DeFreitas on his debut!
In truth ,I’m struggling to think of anybody in an Albion shirt that played badly last week, Gareth McAuley continues to look composed and dependable.
The re-introduction of Youssouf Mulumbu and Claudio Yacob as a partnership has made a vast difference; so much of the success of this Albion team is down to their presence.
A word also for Chris Brunt who has been subjected to some arguably unfair criticism over the course of the season, he worked tirelessly and looks to be coming back into form.
Peter Odemwingie’s re-introduction, to what I thought was more of a mixed reception than the universal damming that was reported by some, is perhaps another indication that the club can now look forwards after a turbulent few weeks.
This weekemd, we visit Stamford Bridge and the European champions Chelsea. I must confess I have never particularly enjoyed this fixture.
It costs an arm and a leg for a ticket and up until the last year or two we were invariably on a hiding to nothing such is the wealth distortion between the sides thanks to Roman’s rubles.
However, Chelsea are going through something of a sticky patch and have only won seven of their last 15 games - a record that admittedly most teams wouldn’t be overly-ashamed of.
There is speculation of mutiny within the camp and interim manager Rafael Benitez publicly expressed his grievances with the club’s Board and supporters this week.
Questioning the club’s governance is arguably a dangerous ploy for a Chelsea boss in the build-up to a game against the Baggies.
Their last two managers found out to their cost just how unsympathetic Roman Abramovich views a defeat against us!
Whilst it’s difficult to harbour any great expectation on a visit to the last winners of the Champions League, could this be a good time for us to go there and play them?
I certainly hope so. Come on you Baggies!