McAuley praises Amalfitano and Yacob
GARETH McAuley admits he does not know who plays on the right wing for Olympique Marseille – but insists he must be a quality player if he is able to keep Morgan Amalfitano out of the team.
The Frenchman has scored twice for the Baggies – including a memorable strike at Old Trafford - since joining on a season-long loan with a view to a permanent deal from the nine-time Ligue One champions.
Meanwhile, Dimitri Payet, who plays wide right for Marseille, has netted three goals in eight games since joining from Lille in the summer.
And McAuley believes Amalfitano has settled in well at The Hawthorns – with fellow French-speakers Stephane Sessegnon, Victor Anichebe, Saido Berahino and Nicolas Anelka helping the 28-year-old find his feet.
“He is some player,” said McAuley.
“I don’t know who plays on the right of midfield for Marseille but he must be decent.
“Morgan’s another great player that the club have found.
“He mixes it up and he does a great job for us without the ball as well, which some people might not see but we certainly do as players.
“He is quite quiet and keeps himself to himself. We try to speak to him but my French isn’t the best so I’m struggling.
“But it’s been easy for him with the other French-speaking lads in the dressing room.
“That helps a lot and he’s been made very welcome.
“The boys can understand what the French guys are saying but we’re not so good when it comes to speaking to them in French.”
McAuley also heaped praise on Claudio Yacob who scored his first goal for the club in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Arsenal.
“He is our defensive midfield lynchpin,” added McAuley.
“He doesn’t get forward much but in training he scores goals and he’s actually a really good header of a ball, which he showed with his finish on Sunday, which was great.
“I would never say he wasn’t in form but he certainly has been breaking a lot of things up for us in the last two games and the goal against Arsenal will be in forefront of people’s thoughts.
“But him and Youssouf have been doing a great job in the last four games and we have been getting results with that solid block.
“He maybe doesn’t speak a lot of English to the media but he is a lot better than he was and you can have conversations with him now.
“He’s got a good grasp of it.”
The Baggies have conceded only six goals in seven Barclays Premier League fixtures this term – fewer than table-toppers Arsenal.
And the Northern Ireland international is pleased Albion’s defence is proving difficult to penetrate this season.
“We talked about our defence a lot during pre-season and it was something we wanted to improve on from the tail end of last season.
“We feel solid and if we’re looking solid then that’s good because we certainly put the work in during pre-season.
“We have just got back to basics and focused on doing things right, keeping things organised and making sure we don’t get counter-attacked on.
“They are just all the basic things that we maybe got away from in the latter part of last season, when we maybe felt we had enough points on the board and we were playing freely rather than playing from our shape.
“When we play from our shape, that’s when we’re strong.”