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Olsson: McAuley is better than ever

17 August 2016

Olsson pays tribute to fellow centre-back McAuley

JONAS Olsson believes defensive team-mate Gareth McAuley is an even more accomplished player now at the age of 36 than when he first joined Albion.

Olsson formed a strong partnership with McAuley from the very moment the Northern Irishman arrived at The Hawthorns in 2011 aged 32.

That understanding was once again in evidence at Selhurst Park last Saturday as the Baggies opened their 2016/17 Premier League campaign with a 1-0 victory at Crystal Palace.

Yet another clean sheet means, since Tony Pulis took charge in January 2015, Albion have kept 22 in the top flight, a haul only Arsenal (26), Man City (23) and Man Utd (23) can better.

And Olsson, himself 33, believes veteran McAuley, who starred for his nation at Euro 2016 this summer, has got even better as the years have gone on.

"Gareth came to the club in 2011 and I came here in 2008, we've played a lot of games together. We know each other well. I enjoy playing next to him," he said.

"Gareth is coming on 37 (in December) but he's at his best, I think. I've played with him for five years and, in my opinion, he's a better player now than he was five years ago, and he was really good then.

"He's really athletic for 36 and has more experience, his decision-making is really good."

Olsson continued: "He doesn't come across as 36 years old.

"For me, as long as I feel fit and I have the motivation to play, then I'm going to keep playing. When you see Gareth doing so well, maybe it is inspiring.

"We have a good understanding. When you've known each other for such a long time, in any relationship, you don't need to shout at each other, you don't need to explain what you mean, you know each other that well, so, more or less, you don't need to communicate. You know who is going to be where."

Olsson, who admits to having benefitted from ideal summer preparation, put in a commanding performance against the Eagles in south London to help secure Albion's first opening-day triumph away from home since 1973.

And now the Swede is hoping to follow that up in front of the Club's home supporters against Everton this weekend.

"I feel in great shape," he added. "We've had a good pre-season and I had a long holiday beforehand. That was very helpful for me going into this season, having five or six weeks off where I could rest the body.

"Both physically and mentally you feel ready for the season, I felt eager last Saturday to get going, and now you get the same feeling with the first home game approaching. I'm looking forward to it.'

Albion supporters can still secure their seat for Saturday's Premier League encounter against the Toffees at The Hawthorns, with tickets on general sale now. For more details, click here.

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