Life in the Premier League has been a steep learning curve for West Bromwich Albion’s young squad.
Some have struggled to adapt to life in the top flight, where mistakes are punished ruthlessly and without mercy, but a handful of Tony Mowbray’s inexperienced squad have shown signs that they can emerge as proven Premier League players in years to come.
One of those is centre-back Jonas Olsson. Although the Swede is not a young, raw player, the 26-year-old had never played at a standard close to the Premier League before.
Olsson began his career at Landskrona BoIS in his homeland before testing himself in Holland with NEC Nijmegen, where he was spotted by Mowbray.
After completing his £800,000 move last summer, Olsson has become the rock at the heart of the Baggies defence and has chipped in with a few vital goals as well, including the opener in the 3-0 victory over Sunderland last Saturday, a win that has given Albion a glimmer of hope.
Mowbray admits Olsson is not the finished article yet, as his clumsy challenge to hand Manchester City a penalty at Eastlands a week ago proved.
However, his two-month absence because of a knee injury earlier in the season was deeply felt by Albion and Mowbray believes the Swede could have a bright future over here.
“Jonas has been a big plus for us this year and yet he is still acclimatising to the Premier League,” Mowbray said.
“He scored a great goal this week but he will think back to the Manchester City game when he gave away that penalty, because he is very analytical of his own performances.
“Jonas knows he is on a journey of becoming a very consistent top-quality defender and he is getting there. He leads by example and is someone I would rather have in my team than not. It is great that he can score a goal for us at the other end as well.
“I’ll probably be fielding bids for him because he’s so good with the ball, top teams like that type of defender. I’d have him in my team every time.”
The problem for Mowbray has been who to partner Olsson with and it has been a decision that has been taken out of the Albion manager’s hands countless times this season because of injuries.
Abdoulaye Meite has been his preferred choice but a hamstring problem, which flared up again against Sunderland and forced the Ivory Coast international off, has meant Mowbray has not had his desired settled partnership.
Shelton Martis came on and did well, and he may well line up alongside Olsson for the rest of the season if Meite’s problem does not settle down.
“It is not an ideal situation for us because we have no consistency in what is a crucial area of the pitch. That is frustrating,” Mowbray said.
“We will have to wait and see with Abou, as we have done four or five times this season, whether it settles down.
“Shelton came on and was very good for the second 45 minutes. He has shown great strength to recover from his last outing at home versus Stoke when very early on he misjudged the bounce of a ball. The signs are strong that Shelton can hold that position down himself.”
Graham Dorrans was also due to undergo an x-ray yesterday as a precaution after limping out of action after receiving a nasty kick on his foot.