Sam Allardyce says he currently sees Arsenal as one of West Brom’s relegation rivals.
The Gunners, victorious only once in their last 10 Premier League outings and beaten 4-1 by Manchester City in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday, are currently 15th in the table with 14 points from as many games – four points clear of the relegation zone.
Albion are second from bottom with seven points – five adrift of safety – and host Arsenal on January 2, following matches at champions Liverpool on Sunday and at home against Leeds two days later.
Allardyce, who was appointed as Baggies boss last week, stressed at his press conference on Thursday the importance of the team taking points against other sides in the bottom eight in their battle to stay up.
And when asked if he regarded Arsenal as rivals in terms of trying to get out of the current predicament, he said: “If they are in the bottom eight at the moment, yes, absolutely.
“They’ve only won maybe one in the last 10 or so, and it appears their big results have come in the Europa League. And of course getting beat again last night, even though it’s not in the league, as it does with our players, drains the confidence of Arsenal’s players, of course it will.
“Because they’ll be wondering what has hit them, why they are down there, and what it is going to take to get out of that position.
“I know what it takes, I hope I can convince the players to respond to what I say on what it takes to get out of it, and I hope we can push on Arsenal when they play us because they’ve got a lack of confidence, and try to beat them – or anybody in the bottom eight.”
He added: “(Arsenal boss) Mikel Arteta would not think they’d be in that position at this moment in time, but he seems a strong character, seems to not move away from what his beliefs are – which is what we all have to do.”
Regarding matches against teams from 13th downwards, Allardyce said: “Our points total needs to be gained against the bottom eight, more than anywhere else.
“If we finish on the top of the bottom eight teams, then we won’t get relegated I don’t think – if we can beat them or draw, and certainly not lose to any of them, and we finish at the top of that table, we’ll almost guarantee our safety.”
West Brom were beaten 3-0 at home by Aston Villa on Sunday in their first game since bringing in Allardyce as successor to the sacked Slaven Bilic, playing with 10 men after skipper Jake Livermore’s first-half sending off.
Allardyce, who has managed seven other clubs in the top flight, said: “I think the position we’re in, and the fact of how many points we’ve got, with the games played, makes it as difficult a job as I’ve ever had.
“The only way to overcome that is obviously these players here at the moment play better, be more organised and be more consistent in the way they play, to get points on the board as quickly as possible, and then at the end of this month, the window will be open.
“I think doing trade in January might be a crucial part of whether we can stay in the league or not.”