How pleased we are with today and do you feel that European football can be the making of the players like Antonio and Rice?
Well, I was really, really pleased with it, with the way the players played tonight because Zagreb have got a really good history in European football. A history of developing really exciting players so I knew it was going to be a tough game. And I think the players were well aware of that as well, we made them aware of that. But I hope that it is something that is new, certainly new to Declan Rice if you’re using Declan as an example. He’s played international football for his country but not for his club. So I think it’s something he’s having to get used to as well. It’s only the start. For most of the players at the club some haven’t been involved in European football, but others like Tomas Soucek, Vladimir Coufal and even Yarmolenko have had involvement in the Champions League.
Are you now learning how far this team can go?
We are and I’m really excited by the prospect of slightly not knowing how good they can be. I mean, tonight we brought in two or three different players, we changed it and we didn’t look any worse for it. The challenges will come. My target is to make sure that we’ve got European football after Christmas time and if you get to that point then you know that you start to involve other teams but one game is all it is and we’ve got to try and continue the level we’re at, and we’re at a good level the players are in a good place here. Yeah.
Are you seeing something different in Declan since the Euros?
Yeah, well I think what he’s trying to do is he’s trying to take himself to the next level. He’s a terrific player, he’s getting better. He’s shown it in his performance tonight. He was the captain of West Ham for the first time in Europe for a long time away from home, scores a goal as well which probably makes the game much more comfortable. So from that point of view, we have seen a real development. You mustn’t forget he is still 22 years old, and a young boy with a big future and a big career ahead of him. One step at a time but he is doing really well for us.
How satisfied with Nikola Vlasic’s performance are you and what position do you see him playing?
I see him playing 7, 10, or 11. I think we can use him in all those positions. You [Croatian press] will probably know much better than I do. What I’ve seen just now I really like the look of. I think we need to give him a bit of time to settle with us, our speed, the movement with how we play. But he’s a brilliant boy. He is great, you will know that much better than me, he has a fantastic attitude, committed, determined, and he will be good for us. What I want is his goals, I want his assists. I want all that whether he plays 7, 10 or 11. And I know he can bring that so I thought today was good for him, coming home to Croatia I felt was a good place for him to start. And we’ll bring him on and hopefully have a really top Premier League player in the future.
He has played a false nine for the country so maybe you can use him there!
You’re right I might need him then, thanks for that wisdom!
Did expect you Dinamo to be more aggressive, more offensively minded?
Well, I really respect them and what was in my thoughts was the 3-0 victory over Tottenham last year, which was very much in my thoughts because that was a terrific performance and even the performance when they went to Tottenham was very good as well. I had that in my head that they are capable of that level of performance. I think at the moment the way we have played many teams find it difficult. We’ve recently come up against teams which have given us much more than the ball, because we would become better at keeping the ball maybe that may be the reason for it. I did think that in the second half when Zagreb, in the opening 10 minutes of the second half when they came at us they actually left it open for us to then to try and go and score which Declan did, we’ve got a terrific team on the counter attack. Probably one of our biggest strengths and we’re finding at the moment, we’re not getting a chance to use that quite as much.
There was a moment in Declan’s run when he looked up and saw Antonio, in the past he might have cut that back.
Yes, he would.
Is that something you want to see him do more of and how about his celebration in front of the home fans?
Well, that’s still the young player which we can see. The thing about it[the goal] is his ability to surge away from people, the power and speed. It is a great trait he has got and we would like him to use it more. If you can remember the last game of the season last year against Southampton, it was a little bit similar to that goal when he broke away and scored. He had a bit of a ribbing because he does not score enough goals so he’s beginning to stand up and we will have another very good goalscoring midfield player.
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