Roberto Di Matteo believes the true test of West Bromwich Albion’s character will arrive during the coming months.
The Baggies might have taken five points from last season’s Big Four, but their manager believes the pre-festive period will be crucial to their consolidation hopes.
He has a point. While Albion might be sixth going into this weekend, it’s hard to imagine the ‘bonus’ points against Arsenal and Manchester United will mean as much if they slip up to the likes of West Ham, Stoke or Wolves – to pick out just three clubs.
Albion’s fixture list during November includes trips to Blackpool, Upton Park and Wigan, with home games against Manchester City and the Potters.
“I believe the more difficult games will come from now on,” said Di Matteo.
“There are games coming up where you expect to get something and people are giving you more of a chance.
“These will be more difficult games than we’ve played so far.
“There are a lot of people excited at the moment, especially surrounding the club.
“We and the players know where we stand and what we need to have a successful season.
“I told the players before the start of the season that, after eight games, I didn’t want us to be depressed if things weren’t going our way.
“And likewise not getting carried away if we were going well. We have 30 games left – a lot of points to play for.
“We have to play some very good teams and games to sustain our performance in the Premier League.
“It’s difficult to get points against the big clubs so I’m pleased about those but I don’t care whether I get three points against Chelsea, Liverpool, Stoke or Wigan – I don’t care.
“Three points are three points and the opposition isn’t important.”
Di Matteo is expecting tough questions to be asked of his squad during the coming weeks.
With some players struggling to break into the first 18, the Italian believes all first-teamers within his 25-man squad will be used during the next two months.
“I expect us to be tested a lot during next few months,” he contnued.
“We’re pleased that our injury list is coming down and getting smaller and smaller now that we’re starting a busy period.
“I told the players we will need them all. We have players who have come in and slotted into the team. They’re ready for it, which is pleasing. And credit to the players for the way they’ve handled themselves.”