West Bromwich Albion have been relegated from the Premier League following their 3-1 defeat away to Arsenal.
Albion went into the contest knowing they had to beat the Gunners, with Sam Allardyce’s men 10 points below 17th-placed Burnley on Sunday morning and only four games remaining.
But first-half goals from Emile Smith-Rowe and Nicolas Pepe and a late strike from Willian mean West Brom will join Sheffield United in dropping down to the Championship for the 2021-22 season – despite Matheus Pereira’s fine virtuoso effort in the second period.
Albion’s demotion is the first time that Allardyce, during his long managerial career, has suffered relegation from the top flight.
It is the fifth time the Baggies have dropped out of the Premier League since its inception in 1992.
Fulham could join them in falling down to the second tier if they fail to at least draw with Burnley on Monday night – Scott Parker’s men are nine points below Sean Dyche’s side and have a goal difference which is four worse than the Clarets.
Next season will be West Brom’s third in four where they will be plying their trade in the Championship, having previously spent eight years in the top flight.
Their hopes of pulling off a remarkable survival took a major blow just before the half hour mark on Sunday evening, when Smith-Rowe scored his first Premier League goal for the Gunners by volleying in Bukayo Saka’s cross with a well-taken left-footed strike.
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And six minutes later the lead was doubled when Pepe scored one of the best goals of Arsenal’s season, as he cut onto his left foot and smashed the ball into the far, top corner from 20 yards out.
Pereira did give West Brom hope when he also scored a stunning goal midway through the second half.
The Brazilian ran from his own half and fired in a low drive from around 25 yards out via the inside of the post.
It wasn’t enough for the Baggies though. Despite a stellar second-half response, they couldn’t find an equaliser at the Emirates and their fate was sealed through Willian’s fine freekick.
Playmaker Pereira may well find himself back among the elite however, after a fine individual campaign, with Allardyce having admitted that it is unlikely Albion will be able to keep hold of their star man this summer.
“There’s a price for everybody, isn’t there – everybody has a price,” he said on Friday.
“Whatever price the club thinks Matheus is worth, if anybody goes above that then I would think it would be very difficult for him to say no. You wouldn’t know what Matheus is thinking after this season.
“Certainly in the latter part of the season when he’s proved himself to be more than comfortable at this level.
“We’ve got a lot of conclusions to come to – well the club has – on what the situation is.
“We’d like Matheus to stay but you don’t know what he’s thinking and you don’t know what other clubs are thinking after the way he’s performed.”
“I’ll probably wake up tomorrow and realise the situation, bitterly disappointed,” said Allardyce post-game.
“I’m not saying we should have avoided relegation but we should have been closer, into the last three games.
“The creating of chances has been there but the conversion has not. And ultimately that has made a difference.
“Today defensively we’ve slipped up. Today we’ve scored a great goal but had better chances in the final third to create and convert. But it didn’t happen.
“Our real problem was not beating the bottom six sides when the opportunity came up. Beating Chelsea, drawing with Man City should be bonus points.”
Asked whether he will lead Albion into a promotion push next term, Allardyce remained non-committal, saying: “It’s too early to consider or talk about for me.
“It’s about getting over the disappointment and we’ll talk when the time is right.”