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Aug 22, 2012

Clarke keen to keep strikers

Steve Clarke senses that he may be at odds with West Bromwich Albion chairman Jeremy Peace over the number of strikers in his squad.

• Lukaku: We must be humble

Clarke believes there may be some pressure from the boardroom to prune his strike force, but is committed to hanging on to his five strikers beyond the summer transfer window.

Swedish international Markus Rosenberg, described by his boss as "electric" in training this week, is set to join the stampede for places in the weekend clash at Tottenham.

However, he has to force a way past the likes of Shane Long - who led the line in the opening-day dismantling of Liverpool - Peter Odemwingie, Romelu Lukaku and Marc-Antoine Fortune.

"I have not made the job easy for myself," Clarke said. "I could have kept two strikers for every week, but you need goals and I have five really good strikers. I want to keep them all.

"I know the chairman might see different, but competition for forward places is important. If they can all chip in with eight goals, you are a long way towards the amount you need to stay in the Premier League."

Rosenberg has been playing "catch-up", Clarke said, because he was considered to be short of match fitness when he arrived on a free transfer after Euro 2012.

He was not even on the bench against Liverpool but has this week added to the pressure on the other four forwards, who all figured in the 3-0 win.

"Markus was electric in training, so he's looking good," Clarke said. "He'll be in the party to go to Tottenham. The fact that he didn't even make the squad on Saturday is a reminder to the players of the competition for places and the fact that they all have to perform. If he'd been signed a week earlier, he would have made my job even more difficult.

"I had fantastic options on the bench against Liverpool. You can't have enough good players. I want this [picking the team] to be my hardest job. I want players to put me under pressure. You saw that with the two boys who came off the bench [Lukaku and Fortune]."

The conundrum is complicated further by the fact Albion have sometimes opted to play with only one out-and-out striker and left Odemwingie cutting in from wide on the right.

The manager had no objection to the Nigerian grabbing the ball from James Morrison when Albion were awarded their second penalty four days ago.

Shane Long, the nominated taker, had earlier seen a feeble kick saved by Pepe Reina when the in-form Morrison, with both hands on the ball, walked towards the spot following a second foul in the area.

Odemwingie then took the ball and scored, and Clarke said the matter was resolved among the players at the time. He added: "Once I saw Peter with the ball, I was happy enough, and he tucked it away well."

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