And Clarke's joint-No.2 says they missed midfielder's defensive qualities at Emirates
KEITH Downing believes Claudio Yacob will benefit from his enforced rest after missing last Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Arsenal due to a minor hamstring problem.
The Argentina international’s injury came on the back of playing three games in eight days in what has been a whirlwind start to his career in England since arriving at The Hawthorns on a Bosman in the summer.
He has sat out only one other Barclays Premier League game all season and, as one of the Baggies’ star performers, Downing admits the team missed the midfielder’s defensive qualities at the Emirates Stadium.
“The speed of the game is different to what he’s used to,” said Steve Clarke’s joint-No.2.
“To play the number of games he has played is impressive and we think he’s coped really well with the physicality of Premier League football.
“The fact is that I don’t think, with the benefit of hindsight, that it will do him any harm having a game or two out of it and having a breather.
“He’s been a great influence in midfield and a great acquisition.
“Paul Scharner left in the summer and Claudio came in to replace him, and he’s been a real bonus for us this year.”
He added: “We missed his defensive qualities at Arsenal as he tends to break up play and read danger well.
“We’re very strong in midfield areas and if you look at the likes of Brunt, Morrison, Dorrans, Gera, Claudio and Mulumbu, it is an area of the pitch we’re very happy with.
“Given any permutations we are happy we have cover in that area of the field.”
Yacob’s central midfield partnership with Youssouf Mulumbu has been one of the big success stories of sixth-placed Albion’s campaign to date.
And Downing says because he is playing in his specialist position it has helped him overcome the language barrier.
“It is difficult to speak with him because of the language barrier but he is doing well with his English lessons,” he said.
“We talk using my best Spanish and his best English, so we can have a basic chat.
“He’s quite a bright footballer and football is obviously a universal language.
“If you look at the No.10 in Argentina that is Maradona and if you look at the No.5 that is the first port of call of a defensive midfielder.
“To Claudio playing the No.5 role is a specialist position and he has been brought up with that philosophy in mind.
“He is now playing that role for us and it’s something he has picked up well, and he does it very well for us.”