Can you update us on any team news and does having a Monday fixture help a little bit?
Having a Monday fixture definitely helps as it gives you a little more [time] and also helps Wolves as well as they are in the same situation with a couple of days longer. We are still assessing them and getting them in drips and drabs and we are getting them ready. Some of them we have earlier in the week others later but like everyone else we have a few knocks and bruises but I think everyone is still the same this time of the season.
How about the other longer term injuries the likes of Andriy Yarmolenko and Arthur Masuaku, could Arthur maybe be in contention for Monday?
Arthur is back playing a reserve game a week or so ago, so Arthur is back round, but whether he is fully match fit yet we have to question it. Yarmolenko is not ready yet, he went to see a specialist about his knee again, he had a ligament injury that we don’t think is too bad but we are not quite convinced with it. Angelo Ogbonna is making good progress but not ready at this moment in time, so we have knocks and niggles but so will everybody else but we also have a few players who are getting closer to return to match fitness as well.
There were some great performances from some of your players in the internationals. Tomas [Soucek] got a hat-trick for the Czech’s, Jesse [Lingard] and Declan [Rice] both got Player of the Match awards for England, does it help you as a club to be seen to have players doing that on the international stage in the longer term in a recruitment sense?
Well, I hope so. It shows you that the boys are not only playing well for the club at West Ham but when they do go on international duty they are performing again at a high level on international duty as well. Tomas for the Czech’s, Declan has been great and getting Jesse back in and around the England squad. He is on loan from Manchester United but at the moment he is playing for us and we enjoy having him. It is something I like and would like more international players, to have that intensity and it gives stature so we have to try and keep adding to the players we have got but the players we have are doing very well.
Is there a points total in your head?
I did say that when we get to single games I would look at it, but it is really tight and there are five or six teams who could certainly be in different positions. So what I have done in my head is simply take it one by one now and see where we go and then move on to the next one. But we were not expected to be in this position but we are going to try and do everything to stay in this position and if that get’s us into one of the European competitions then great, but if it doesn’t we will look at it and probably look and still see it as a good season so we will have to try and keep going and make it a great season if we can by making it into European competition.
In your last meeting with Wolves, I am sure you remember with fondness a 4-0 win to West Ham – how much do you and the team want to do double over Wolves?
The fondness I take is I had Covid and I was sitting in my apartment watching the result come in. It was a great credit to my staff for how well they did the job and the players as well for their professionalism. I hope we can do the double but obviously it’s a tough game to play against Wolves. They showed really good signs in their last game against Liverpool, they played well I felt. I understand it will be another tough game for us.
Is it essential to maintain intensity against a team with a really solid counter-attacking approach?
They have been a strong side for a few seasons now Wolves, I think everybody has seen that and we have seen how well they’ve done. We have to be aware of them in all different parts, they are good on the ball and they are a good all-round team. Maybe they’ve not had as good a season as they have had in the past, but that happens when you’re trying to grow and become a better club. Wolves have certainly done that in recent years and they’ve made great strides coming into the Premier League, staying there and actually competing at a really high level.
Where can you exploit Wolves?
If you don’t mind, I won’t tell you that because it will let them know, but overall, we have to keep trying to play the way we have been and keep trying to be aggressive. We will try to win every game we can but that also comes from having a good defence and trying to make sure we defend when we have to but at the right moment make sure we attack and get enough people forward who can score.
Lingard is averaging a goal or assist every 88 mins for West Ham in Premier League this season, what do you put that down to?
I think that’s a great stat, I like that! It is great for us and when you bring people in during January, you hope they can make a difference and do something for you and Jesse has. That stat certainly backs that up.
Wolves result significant after back-to-back defeats at the beginning of the season?
It was a tough game and we had actually played Wolves in one of the remaining lockdown games when we came back and we lost 2-0. We did okay but we weren’t quite good enough so to get such a positive result at the start of the season was really important, especially after we lost the first two games. We played really well at Arsenal but didn’t take anything from the game so for the team to get a strong performance and the goals, it gave us a lot of confidence and it was something for us to build on. The signs had been there and it didn’t really come from our first three games, but behind the scenes, we felt we were in pretty good shape and just needed to turn, and thankfully the Wolves game, it happened then.
Rice showing everyone his class at international level now, not just with West Ham?
Declan has been improving no end and he is a massive player for us and drives us on. He is getting better in many ways with his leadership, understanding of the game and his professionalism. That is what happens when a young player comes in and steps up. He is now getting the chance to see the best in the country, he is training with them and working alongside them. It gives you a guide to show you the level you have to get to and I have to say Declan is stepping up and joining them now. We always thought he could do and I am sure he will continue to get better as well.
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