PEPE Mel has hailed Jonas Olsson’s leadership qualities and the versatility he provides ahead of his return to the fold for Saturday’s trip to Norwich.
The Sweden international missed the matches against Hull and Cardiff as he served a two-match suspension having collected his tenth booking of the season in Albion’s 2-1 victory at Swansea.
Mel operated with a successful 3-5-2 system at the Liberty Stadium - with Gareth McAuley and Craig Dawson playing alongside Olsson - before having to switch to four at the back against the Tigers and Bluebirds.
It remains to be seen how the Spaniard will line-up at Carrow
Road, where, if selected, Olsson is likely to regain the captain’s armband from McAuley.
“For us it is extremely important to have Jonas available because he is a leader within the group and his contribution I’m sure will be very big this weekend,” Mel said.
“The biggest problem with not having Olsson was that when we were winning against Cardiff we could not play with three centre-backs - we couldn’t make that change.
“It’s now up to me as to whether we play with three centre-backs against Norwich.”
Just eight points separate bottom of the table Fulham from 15th-placed Norwich heading into this weekend – one in which four of the bottom six play each other.
Albion boast the best goal difference of those half a dozen sides and Mel knows it will prove a valuable added positive going into the final seven matches of the season.
“Goal difference can have an awful lot of a say,” he said.
“As it stands Cardiff need two games to overtake us.
“So it is very important we keep clean sheets.”