West Bromwich Albion are looking to reverse their fortunes of five games without a win as they visit Selhurst Park on Saturday afternoon to face Crystal Palace.
Having won only three games this season, the Baggies currently sit in 19th place and are eight points from the safety, while Palace are looking to bounce back from their 4-1 loss to Tottenham Hotspur last week.
Sitting 13th in the table with 34 points, Roy Hodgson’s Palace have endured a rather lacklustre season.
Albion are yet to claim two wins on the bounce this campaign and come into the game off the back of a 1-0 home defeat to Everton, despite several missed opportunities to capitalise.
Sam Allardyce’s side have only lost once in their five previous encounters, however, there is a key missing factor that is holding them back from moving off the relegation zone.
In Friday’s press-conference, the 66-year-old manager acknowledged that West Brom are in a complicated situation, admitting even more so than during his managerial job at Palace. Four successive wins as Palace boss in 2017, Allardyce managed to steer the Eagles to safety.
“The big slip up is too many draws based the victories,” Allardyce said.
“Unfortunately we look back on those periods and say that those victories really should have been achieved, but we can only hold ourselves accountable for that because far too many chances have been missed to win the game and that’s left us in a more difficult position than we probably were at Crystal Palace.
“So because the number of points that we need from where we are is greater than that it was at Palace, so we have to believe that if we can start with a victory at Palace, can we put a number of victories together in a short period of time because there’s only ten games left.”
Following Palace’s 5-1 victory over Albion in December, Allardyce emphasised the importance to come away with all three points in their pursuit of Premier League survival.
“So near yet so far, ourselves, and I think that you know we have to rectify, irrespective of everything else that’s going on, we have to rectify our goal scoring ability,” Allardyce said.
“We rectified our goal scoring ability in the last eight or nine games, we would have been having more than a more than a fighting chance of staying in the Premier League but that hasn’t happened and we’ve got to turn that round, like I’ve talked about previously, as quickly as possible.”
Since Allardyce’s arrival at The Hawthorns in mid-December, defensive improvements have been visible but their troubles in front of goal are far from being resolved.
“Defensively we become more secure after being the team that leaks more goals than anybody else and then from an attacking point of view, we’re right up there in terms of creating. But unfortunately our statistics in conversion of chances and shots on target is too low and that’s what we have to improve.
“We’ve been in that position many times now, but we failed to, apart Brighton, we failed to do it more often in the teams that we play that’s in and going around us where when you beat them when it comes to be the old six pointer is because it’s important to beat them because you could win a football match against the team in mid table or top half which is absolutely fantastic.
“That was a particularly apparent in the Newcastle game, what massive victory that would have been, but we did our very best to try and achieve, unfortunately couldn’t find that goal that we needed to clinch that three points sadly.”
Over the years though, the former England manager has become renowned for his remarkable record saving clubs from relegation since taking his first full-time job with Blackpool in 1994.
Eager to maintain his reputation intact, if West Brom were to beat the odds, this would be the best ever greatest escape since he began his managerial career.
“I think probably the greatest, because the number of points that we need compared to the other clubs I’ve been at I think. From this period with 10 games to go, it’s obviously a lot more difficult because the amount of points that we need to gain to try and get safe and keep this club back in the Premier League.”
With ten games left until the end of the 2020/21 season, time is ticking for West Brom to mount their bid for survival.
“We need to stay active, we need to enjoy our training, we can’t feel sorry for ourselves,” Allardyce said.
“We need to keep that atmosphere going in terms of team spirit. I think everybody sees what we’ve done recently, we’ve been very, very, close in terms of achieving more points, and that that it gives us the confidence to hopefully carry on.
“We cannot afford to slip up too much anymore, we all know that, so the pressure really is mounting. Can we deal with that pressure and can we produced the performances under that pressure to get the victories we need?”
Working towards Premier League safety continues at Selhurst Park with a full-fit squad, where Allardyce believes it will be “crucially important” to find the lead first, in what is poised to be a “very, very tight game.”
“We won’t be in a position to go all out and gone goals in terms of trying to win the game because I think that would leave too many gaps and too many openings for Palace to maybe exploit, but as the game evolves, we really want to try if we possibly can to score the first goal, I think it’s crucially important in a game like this.
“I think it’s a very, very tight game. I think that we’re in a position to try and make opportunities, but not really to go all out or to gung ho too early on, we know we really need a victory much more than Crystal Palace and what Roy’s done, they’ve been really comfortable most of the season.
“Even though they had spells of not winning football matches or not scoring as many as they’d like, they are in a very comfortable position in terms of their position in the Premier League so all the pressure really lies with us and we need to be able to handle that pressure and produce a performance that gives us an opportunity to win.”
“In terms of injury concerns, there aren’t any in the team but in training, Robert Snodgrass. But we’re waiting to find out what that’s like today, but other than that, I have to say the backroom staff have done a fantastic job here in terms of our selection process.
“Our booking levels have reduced, our injury levels certainly have been very, very minimal, which has been the real bonus in terms of what you’re trying to do.”
The pressure to climb up the table remains the target and Allardyce’s forwards will need to convert their chances when they come.
“I think that you know that goes without saying what really happens is having the nerve to produce the hardest thing in the Premier League and that’s that clinical finisher ability to put the ball in the back of the net when that chance and that chance pops up.
“A little bit like the unfortunate situation at Everton where we saw an absolute wonderful goal scored by Mbaye Diagne by chest half volley all in one movement. Then unfortunately for us is a toenail offside.
“Sharing the goals out is the most important, which is one of the areas that Matt, Scott, Connor Gallagher’s got, Matheus Pereira, they’re all responsible for the fact that they’ve got to get the goal tally up a bit more, so we’ve got to the final stages, we get to the final third knowing they need to put the icing on top of the cake, if you like.
“Hopefully we’re going to continue to improve from now until the end of the season. I think I said without wanting to repeat myself, that the only aspect that we really need to make sure we get better at now is our clinical finishing.
“From a personal point of view, should have at least or be 23 points now or maybe even more than that, based on those performances.
“An opportunity to win game, but that hasn’t happened, so we’ve got to make sure that that starts by producing a performance to try and produce a victory, which we’ve been so close to so often in the last eight or nine games, and that will give us a great boost before we go into the three week break.”
With an international break on the horizon following this weekend’s run of fixtures and despite the club’s precautions as players who will be representing their national teams are prone to injury, some will embrace this occasion with open arms.
“There’s a lot of players who will probably be on international duty so that would be the biggest concern on the basis of where they’re playing, who they’re playing against, what time will they arrive back at the training ground, what condition will they be in, to keep us informed of any problems that may be experiencing while they’re away in international duty, more in terms of injury for us.
“There will be a couple of opportunities to playing a couple of games we’ll have behind closed doors and then the players who stay here have been playing week in and week out will be an occasion of rest periods and then training periods will be split over those three weeks until we all come back together again.”
Palace will host West Brom on Saturday, March 13 at 3pm.