Head coach also reveals Mulumbu contract discussions
STEVE Clarke says he is desperate to solve Albion’s post-international-break conundrum as he prepares for Saturday’s clash with Arsenal at The Hawthorns (ko 3pm).
The Baggies have lost each of their three Barclays Premier League fixtures following World Cup qualifying double-headers this season.
The latest of those losses came at West Ham last Saturday - and head coach Clarke insists his side are eager to make up for that reverse against the fifth-placed Gunners.
“In the three games the team has played after the players have been away on the longer international breaks, when they’ve played two games for their countries, we’ve come back with two really poor away performances at Fulham and West Ham and lost a home game to Man City,” said Clarke.
“The international breaks weren’t very good for us this season and we need to improve on that next season.
“We now need to be motivated by the fact we put in a poor performance last week.
"On Saturday, we want to put on a strong performance at home which, by and large, we have done well this season.
“Going forward, we have to look at the fact that the boys have been away playing in big qualifying games, as there is big pressure to try and get your team to the World Cup in Brazil.
“All those factors are something I’ve got to look at next season.
“When the players return, there’s nothing obviously wrong other than that some of them are a little bit tired.
“At West Ham, three or four didn’t perform to their best level and any club in this league with that number of players under-performing will normally get beat.”
Clarke believes he gathered a great deal from Albion’s 2-0 defeat at Arsenal in November.
“I think the lesson I learnt in that game was that in the first half we defended too deep,” Clarke added.
“We sat on the edge of our box and we’d have been better if we’d defended ten yards higher up the pitch.
“It’s something that we’ve addressed since. We tend to defend higher up the pitch if we can.
“If you play against good teams who have a lot of possession and you keep dropping and dropping, eventually they’ll pick you off.”
The Hawthorns chief also revealed Youssouf Mulumbu is one of three players in contract negotiations with the club - along with Shane Long and Gareth McAuley - as preparations for next term are well and truly underway.
“We’ve started to discuss contracts with some of the players already," said Clarke.
“We’ve managed to secure Jonas Olsson and James Morrison on longer contracts.
“We’re in discussions with two or three other players and hopefully we’ll tie all that up well before I go on my summer holidays.
“We’re speaking to Youssouf, Shane and Gareth about new contracts.
“Talks are ongoing and there’s probably one or two more behind them in the queue - but we can’t speak to everyone at the same time!”
Clarke says Albion have also been scouring the market for potential summer recruits for some time as they bid to continue their year-on-year improvement in the Premier League.
“We’d like to think it’s going to continue," he added.
“I think in football in general and, in particular in the Premier League, if you stand still other teams come charging past you.
“It’s important we look to improve the squad of players we have and give them a bit of help next season.
“That’s what we’ll endeavour to do between now and next season.”