Zola to target Chelsea weakness at set piece
West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola will order his side to target
Chelsea’s frailty at set-pieces as they look to kickstart their
campaign with a home win against the Barclays Premier League
leaders on Sunday.
The Blues have won just one of their five matches in December
and their defence has come under the spotlight after conceding 11
times this month.
A number of those goals have come from set-pieces, with
goalkeeper Petr Cech coming in for some criticism for failing to
command his box.
And it is an area the Hammers will seek to exploit when
Chelsea visit Upton Park.
“We know that they have been conceding from set-pieces,” said
Zola, a former Chelsea player.
“We have been very dangerous from set-pieces ourselves so
that might be the key to the game.
“Chelsea have lost a bit of confidence and I am not sure why,
but I hope it continues. Chelsea are not the same Chelsea they were
some time ago.
“But they are still top of the league and a fantastic
performance is required from us.”
Zola’s defence has been even more porous, shipping 14 goals
in their last six league games.
One of the goals they conceded in the 3-1 defeat to Bolton on
Tuesday night came when goalkeeper Robert Green, who has been one
of the Hammers’ star players this season, inexplicably fumbled a
straightforward shot at the feet of Ivan Klasnic, who tapped home.
Zola expects Green to bounce back against Chelsea in a match
where the England custodian could be under severe pressure.
“Robert Green is a strong person, a strong man and he will be
okay,” Zola said.
“He knows what he did and I didn’t need to say anything to
him. He has been magnificent for me since last year and he knows he
made a mistake.
“It happened a couple of times with me – I missed chances
without a goalkeeper in front of me from one yard out. It’s part of
The Hammers have dropped into the relegation zone after
losing three league matches in a row.
With a leaky defence and a shortage of firepower up front,
fans will fear the second half of the season panning out like the
Zola admits belief is in short supply at Upton Park at the
moment but is confident he has the players at his disposal to turn
“The results are affecting the players and their confidence
level isn’t great. That is totally understandable in this
situation,” the Italian said.
“I have to get the best out of my players and I think they
can do a good job.
“But last year was the same. I kept my mind on the job and it
worked. And we were more or less in the same situation – we only
had two points more last season.”
Zola’s injury worries have eased with Matthew Upson returning
to full fitness after a hamstring problem.
The centre-back will go straight back into the heart of the
defence but West Ham are still without Upson’s fellow England
international Carlton Cole.
The club’s top scorer is currently sidelined by a knee
ligament complaint although Zola revealed the striker might be back
“earlier than we thought”, with a return in mid-January now a
Guillermo Franco is set to continue up front on his own in