By Nick Ware

23rd Dec, 2020 | 5:04pm

'Absolutely' - West Brom boss Allardyce makes Arsenal admission

Sam Allardyce has piled the pressure on Arsenal by suggesting they are relegation rivals to his struggling West Brom side.

As quoted by BBC Sport’s Simon Stone, when asked if Arsenal were rivals at the bottom end of the Premier League, Allardyce replied: “Absolutely. They haven’t won a Premier League game for almost double figures (is seven, one win in 10).

“Getting beaten last night [4-1 defeat to Manchester City in the League Cup], even though not in Premier League, drains [the] confidence of Arsenal players.

“They will be wondering what has hit them.”

With just seven points separating the sides, Allardyce’s comments might be more than just a barb at a club he has a long history of clashing with.

He will not have to wait long to test that theory, as the Baggies host Mikel Arteta’s side on January 2.

Whether Arteta will actually be there to face his opposite number remains to be seen, but with a difficult fixture against Liverpool coming up next, Allardyce will be desperate to put points on the board as quickly as possible, and the chance to inflict more misery on a confidence-stricken Arsenal looks like a good opportunity to do so.

Johnstone to be crucial again

Before the January match up with Arsenal, Allardyce will be hoping goalkeeper Sam Johnstone keeps up his fine early-season form as the Baggies get set to face two dangerous attacks in successive fixtures over the festive period.

Travelling to face Liverpool at Anfield on December 27, West Brom will be facing the top marksman in the league in Mohamed Salah, who has 13 goals in the same number of appearances.

Liverpool have scored seven more goals (36) than any other side in the Premier League this season, and will be in confident form after their 7-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Then, on December 29, Leeds visit The Hawthorns, having scored the most goals in the bottom half of the table (24), more than double the number of their hosts (10).

Restricting both teams to minimal chances will be a difficult task for Allardyce’s new charges, but in Johnstone they have a stopper capable of repelling them.

Per WyScout, Johnstone has made the most saves per game (4.68) in the Premier League, while he ranks joint second for prevented goals per 90 (0.33), with Burnley’s Nick Pope.

In other West Brom news, see our predicted XI v Liverpool as key player set to return.