STEVE Clarke believes his team are already reaping the rewards for their pre-season defensive work.
In their opening six top-flight games this term the Baggies have conceded just five goals in six top-flight games and recorded two clean sheets compared to the 14 goals they shipped in the same number of matches at the end of last term.
But their new-found meanness will be firmly put to the test when the Barclays Premier League’s eight-goal top scorers on the road, Arsenal, arrive at The Hawthorns on Sunday (ko 4pm).
“In pre-season we just focused on getting back to basics,” said Clarke.
“At the start of last season, when we had a good start, we built everything on a solid foundation.
“All the top teams’ success is always based on a solid foundation.
“If you’re solid and you don’t give too many goals away then you always give yourself the opportunity to create in games.
“If you give yourself the opportunity, we have shown in recent matches that we can score goals.”
He added: “Am I pleased defensively? Absolutely!
“We didn’t defend well towards the end of last season. We didn’t have the balance right.
“We scored a few but we conceded too many and at the start of the season the defence has been better.
“And when I say defence I mean the goalkeeper and the rest of the team, I’m not just talking about the back-four.
“Defensively, as a team, we have been much better.
“We haven’t conceded too many silly goals, which is important.”
Clarke admits it is also no coincidence the team’s defensive improvement has also come about at the same time as Jonas Olsson rediscovering his best form.
“Jonas has been a big player for the club for a number of years and last season was no exception,” said Clarke.
“His performances did tail off towards the end of last season, but not only Jonas.
“Collectively we didn’t defend well at the end of last season.
“Jonas is a man and that’s why he stepped forward and said he would take responsibility for some of those performances and results.
“But rather than bringing out individuals, it’s about the team.
“The team now is defending well, and Jonas is a big part of that team.
“He’s been great.
“He had an issue at the end of last season with his Achilles but so far this season he has been out there in every single training session and, as you can see from his performances, he’s in a good place.”