West Brom host Leeds United at The Hawthorns this weekend accompanied by a desperate desire to return a victory that has eluded them since prior to the last international break.
The four-game stretch, taking you back to the beginning of October, has seen Albion gain a single point and such form has cost them a top six place.
There’s time on their side, of course; 30 matches and 90 points are still up for grabs, starting with the encounter against a Leeds side who currently sit atop the pile.
Darren Moore’s strength in depth, as far as options go, will likely return to him this weekend as he prepares to welcome back key trio Gareth Barry, Kieran Gibbs and Dwight Gayle into the fold.
All three have missed the last couple of matches, including that rather lamentable defeat up at Hull last weekend, and the idea that they come back into the match-day squad is welcome news indeed to Moore and supporters alike.
How might Albion line up against Marcelo Bielsa’s Whites? Should they make an alteration in formation?
Here we take a look at the key decisions Moore must address and whether it’s time for a switch at the back.
Gibbs, Gayle and Barry are all tipped to be ready and available, and all three have a case to come straight back in.
The exit of the former two in the home defeat to Derby County significantly derailed Albion’s chances of fighting their way back into that particular meeting.
With Chris Brunt missing because of a hamstring injury, Barry will be expected to feature in his place, and Gibbs will also likely come in at left wing-back – though it must be pointed out at this stage that Conor Townsend did himself no harm with a competent performance at the KCOM Stadium.
It’s further forwards, though, where Moore must decide how the Baggies set up.
James Morrison and Harvey Barnes played in behind lone striker Jay Rodriguez at Hull, for the first half at least, and so the usual 3-4-1-2 became a 3-4-2-1.
With Gayle now fit again, will Morrison drop out? Or could Morrison even be ahead of Barry in replacing Brunt in a deeper position alongside Jake Livermore?
Then there’s Kyle Bartley, who is back in contention after serving his one-match ban in the defeat to the Tigers.
Bartley’s availability will offer Moore food for thought when selecting his back-line, for Tosin Adarabioyo is another who has a case for starting.
A big call Moore and his back-room staff must make is whether to stick or twist on the formation front.
A number of times in the last few weeks Albion have reverted to four at the back when behind and chasing the game, but it remains to be seen whether Moore is open minded to adopting that formation from the off.
It’s a tricky decision to make; on one hand you want to choose the corrent tactic that will benefit the players at your disposal, for a positive outcome.
On the other, you don’t wish to admit defeat by turning away from an approach that was picked in the summer to move forwards with.
Three at the back
With the right personnel, it’s certainly a formation that works. Wolves won the league last season with such a set-up; Chelsea won the Premier League under Antonio Conte in 2017 in the same fashion.
In Matt Phillips and Kieran Gibbs, Albion have suitable wing backs who have both taken to their new roles well. Both have missed matches through injury this term and they’ve been missed in such scenarios, for the Baggies haven’t been able to replace them sufficiently.
The back three has taken its time getting up to speed with the demands of the new style, but week on week there is evidence that there isn’t any significant progress being made.
Four at the back
A conventional four is what Moore enjoyed tempered success with at the back end of last season.
There is the concern that Albion don’t necessarily have an ideal right-back at the club, after the loan of Allan Nyom in the summer, though Dawson has played there frequently in years gone by.
There is the argument, of course, that Dawson would be better served in the middle alongside Ahmed Hegazi, with whom he partnered last term when any form of positive result was obtained.
That would leave Tyrone Mears or Tosin Adarabioyo – the former has been a natural right-back.
It would also mean Phillips and Gibbs taking up roles of right winger and left back respectively.
Do Albion need to change formation in order to return to winning ways?
0+ VOTES SO FAR
PAUL SUART’S TEAM FOR LEEDS
(4-4-2) Johnstone; Gibbs, Hegazi, Dawson, Adarabioyo; Phillips, Barry, Livermore, Barnes, Rodriguez, Gayle.
It means playing Barnes wide left though, he played there in the second half at Hull.
I’d go with Tosin at right-back. He’s improving all the time and probably a bit more confident now. Gibbs on the left.
Moore’s got three of the back four and seven of the 11 that kept out Manchester United and Spurs last season – he just needs to use them properly!
JOSEPH CHAPMAN’S TEAM FOR LEEDS
(4-2-3-1) Johnstone; Dawson, Hegazi, Bartley, Gibbs; Livermore, Morrison, Phillips, Barnes, Sako; Gayle
Provided all but Chris Brunt are fit, I’d personally bring in Gayle and Gibbs to the starting XI.
Morrison has performed adequately since returning from his injury lay-off, and in a deeper role I’d back him to be effective alongside Livermore in getting about the energetic Kalvin Phillips and creative Pablo Hernandez.
At the back, Dawson slots in at right-back and Bartley comes back in at the heart of defence against his former club.
Jay Rodriguez drops to the bench.