What is Zola’s First Team?

Now that the transfer window has closed, let’s look at the players available to him and work out what his first choice 11 is, assuming all players are fit. It seems to me that most positions pick themselves…

GK Rob Green
LB Herita Ilunga
CB Matthew Upson
CB James Collins
RB Lucas Neill
Mid Valon Behrami
Mid Mark Noble
Mid Scott Parker
Mid Jack Collison

However, if Dean Ashton is fit, who would our first choice front two be? I would go for Ashton and Nsereko. I just can’t see Ashton and Cole playing together, and if it comes to a choice between the two Dean Ashton will always score more goals.

The next dilemma comes on the subs bench. These would be my 7…

Lavtushka
Tomkins
Lopez Kovacs
Cole
Dyer
Spector
Di Michele

Which means no place for Sears or Tristan. Hmmmm.

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77 Responses to What is Zola’s First Team?

  1. Martin says:

    Iain

    also no place for Savio??? come on that is a bit harsh–okay he did not score against the Gooners but give the boy a chance ha ha ha

  2. Iain Dale says:

    In included Savio. His surname is Nsereko. Alongside Ashton.

  3. Big Casino says:

    Agree with your first eleven… Ashton and Savio upfront…. but your bench looks very weak to me… I’d go with:

    Lastuvka
    Cole
    Kovac
    Dyer
    Boa Morte
    Spector
    Sears

  4. E1 says:

    I would’nt bother with ashton i’d sell him and get someone to play, and when he comes back he will take forever to get fit don’t think zola will hang on to him for to long not reliable enough for a small squad who are pushing to win things can you imagine him really doing much when he comes back,IF we don’t sell before the start of next season I will be suprised and disapointed he needs to go with dyer and gabbidon ASAP!!Anyway Why should cole loose his place on current form,Ashton should earn it play in the reserves and proove his better now than cole.

  5. Iain Dale says:

    Mmmm. I forgot about Kovacs. Replace Lopez with him.

  6. bazzahammer says:

    i just cannot see ashton getting back to full fitness and being on the top of his game.

    by the way nsereko looks REALLY good!

  7. SurreyFox says:

    Iain,

    – No Kovac in the squad?
    – Surprised to see Spector making your subs bench, he wouldn’t be near my team.
    – I’ll have to go for Sears over Di Michele on the bench (just).
    – I would normally have gone for Gabbidon over Tomkins, but lets face it, Gabbs in never gonna play for us again.
    – LBM…on yer bike

    If the full squad were fit then my 11 and subs would be as follows (but for the time being Noble would come in for Dyer, and Cole for Ashton):

    GK Green
    LB Ilunga
    CB Upson
    CB Collins
    RB Neill (unfortunately)
    RM Dyer (Noble until fit)
    CM Behrami
    CM Parker
    LM Collison
    CF Ashton (Cole until fit)
    CF Savio

    SUBS:
    Lavtushka
    Noble (Di Michele until Dyer fit)
    Cole (Tristan until Ashton fit)
    Sears
    Tomkins
    Lopez
    Kovac

  8. B F says:

    I think his first team will be:

    Green
    Neill Collins Upson Ilunga
    Collison Noble Parker Behrami
    Cole Savio

    Stech
    Tomkins
    Spector
    Kovac
    Dyer
    Di Michele
    Sears

    genuinely believe Ashton will be cashed in on when fit enough to do so.

  9. Daniel says:

    Since Tristan was signed as cover for the injured Ashton, it is no surprise that a fit Ashton leaves Tristan with no place in the squad.

  10. SurreyFox says:

    If Ashton were fit, then there is no comparison between him and Cole. The intelligence of Ashton with Di Michele or Savio would open up loads of opportunities for them. Cole is having a good run, but he is not in the same league as Ashton.

  11. Andy B says:

    taxi for martin

  12. Martin says:

    Yes–I agree I need a Taxi Andy–I should also learn to read instead of “skimming”
    thanks—*trudges away sadly*

  13. Paul says:

    Does anyone seriously believe Dyer will play again ? ,he’s finished .

  14. Martin says:

    Sadly Paul, I also believe the same applies to Dean Ashton. His ankle injury seems to be a bad one. Its sad ‘cos he is one hell of a front man!

  15. ironsmith says:

    I think there is a strong possibility that Zola will replace Noble with Kovac in the starting eleven. I still have reservations with Cole and we need a new front man to partner Savio. A fit Deano would have been perfect but…..

  16. Mike says:

    I don’t think Savio would go straight into the first team. Don’t know how much you guys saw of him in the European Championship, where to be fair to the lad he ripped those youngsters apart, but Sears has certainly showed more goalscoring prowess in his runouts for England’s U-19s. Lest we forget, Savio only scored 3 goals in like 20 appearances in the dreadful Italian second league, so it is guna be really frustrating if people expect too much too soon. I think he should be played as a winger, as you look at our midfield right now – they are 4 central midfielders who are naturally hard to beat, but creatively bluffing their way through… We need more width and perhaps right now with Cole and the captivating Di Michele striking a cord, this is an opportunity for explosive pace, penetration and panache down that right hand side that should not be overlooked. COYI

  17. Chris Roberts says:

    I think I would stay with Di Michele and Cole up front for now they are working well having developed an understanding. Di Michele is 33 and sl could run himself into the ground for 60-70 minutes then bring on Savio.
    I wondered whther Kovac would be first choice in front of Collins? Collins is great in the air but still a bit clumsy on the ground – although improving.

  18. Tom says:

    What is it about Cole that people dont seem to like, he is our top scorer, who has improved miles on last season, and with GZ now helping him will continue to improve, no one seems to work harder than he does, and he looks fully committed to the team. Ashton is injury prone, so maybe get him over the ankle injury and sell for profit.

  19. Prince H says:

    As we don’t know when Ashton will be fit enough to start a game, doubt it will be under this campaign at all, I can’ really see the point in this discussion. If not on the top of his game can’t see him get the nod before Cole in this kind of form. So why not include Gabbidon too? If fit enough I guess he would – for most of us – at least make the bench before Spector does. If Dyer ever will be fit (which I guess we all doubt) and playin at his best he would certainly do our first eleven. Think we can agree on that? So then you have to put him in the team.

  20. RunningHammer says:

    There’s no way Ashton should push Cole out of the first team unless he’s back at full match fitness, in form, and scoring goals.

    I don’t think Ashton has really ever lived up to the hype (that we’ve generated ourselves to a large extent).

    Players to be sold in the summer break are Ashton, Dyer, Gabbidon, LBM.

    And I think I’d put Sears on the bench over Di Michele (thinking of the future!)

  21. SurreyFox says:

    Fair point Mike. We have certainly been missing some pace down the flanks, which is why a fit Dyer would be a revelation. Sadly I have to agree with Paul, as it looks like Dyer (and Ashton) may never wear the claret and blue again (at least not as 100% fit players)…tragic really.

    Noble would unfortunately be the one to drop out of the midfield if Kovac or Savio were to play there, as Collison provides more (I just wish Kovac could play at right back).

    My revised team based on Ashton and Dyer never returning *sob*:

    Green
    Neill Collins Upson Ilunga
    Savio Behrami Parker Collison
    Cole Di Michele

    Subs:
    Lastuvka/Stech
    Tomkins
    Lopez
    Kovac
    Noble
    Sears
    Tristan

    (I just can’t bring myself to put LBM or Spector on the bench – I would opt for any of the remaining youngsters that are not out on loan before them (Stokes, Hines, Stanislas, N’Gala)

  22. chris says:

    Cant believe dyers there!!!
    Do people really think he will play,he already needs another op!!haaaaaaa

  23. Dujon says:

    I’d like to see Stanislas in action. My starting 11 would also be

    Green
    Neill Collins Upson Ilunga
    Savio Behrami Parker Collison
    Cole Di Michele

    With Savio replacing either Cole or Di Michele if nothing inspiring happens, and Kovac slotting into midfield for Savio. (this is talking about the man u game especially, im not saying savio replacing cole or dimichele permanently by no means. Sub after 20/25 minutes if nothing special is happening up front.)

  24. Englandsnumber6 says:

    I think if you show your best team, and at the moment we have a very good team, it will be just like the old days. Man u / chelsk etc will pick them all off in the summer. i will be very supprised if we have the same team at the start of next season, as always us hammers fans are getting a little bit carried away with a run of form.

  25. mike says:

    Roll on more snow Iain – then we can read more of your posts! but I have to disagree Ashton can’t stay fit – look at his injury record even when its not the ankle – calf groin – the blokes a walking medical dictionary and clearly should look for work in the medical profession when his footballing career comes to an end given the amount of expertise he would be able to impart – Cole every time for me

  26. AcrossThePond says:

    I think the back four and midfield is pretty well set. However, up front is obviously the question area. As much as I hate to say it, I don’t think Cole will consistently score like he is doing now. He has hit a patch of form that I hope continues for a long time, but beyond this season are we really going to get more of the same? I think Ashton when fit would bang in more goals.

    As for Savio, as a keen follower of Italian football and having watched him at Brescia, I think that he definitely has the raw talent to succeed but that he shouldn’t be an automatic first choice starter. One thing I have noticed in his West Ham games to far is that he is not the strongest player in the world and can get pushed around. This was less of an issue in the U19 Euro where he shone as well as in Serie B, where he started to break though, but if he’s going to succeed in the EPL he needs to bulk up a bit. He has great pace and some raw talent, but needs to become a bit more physical. That being said, one of the great things about him is that he is a very versatile player, so he can definitely expect a lot of sub appearances and fill in when there are injuries, drops in form, etc., which there are bound to be.

    Some people are thinking of the future, past this season, and while that is certainly a worthy notion, its difficult to speculate what the club’s situation will be like in the summer, let alone a month or two from now. As I understand it, despite the advances we have made there are still legal and financial issues looming, especially considering Gudmundsson still hasn’t found a buyer for the club. On the pitch we can probably rule out Deano for a while, but he has a lot of talent and I want to see him given a chance under Zola before we cash in. Cole may be in form but I think Deano has more raw talent. The wings are tricky since we don’t have many options there. Behrami’s decent on the right, but I like his performances in the center too. As I mentioned before about Savio, I’m not sure he’s ready quite yet.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that we won’t always be running 4-4-2. Zola is a tactically versatile coach as we saw in the Arsenal game and can switch around the attack. I like the idea of giving our full-backs license to move forwards and provide us width in games like the Hull game where they won’t have to defend as much, allowing us to make use of the center of the pitch where we have more strength. However, 4-4-2 seems like it could be the way to go in the tougher matches.

    After that somewhat rambling post I guess I’d say my preferred XI at this moment would be:

    Green
    Neill Collins Upson Ilunga
    Behrami Noble Parker Collison
    Cole Di Michele

    Bench:
    Stech
    Kovac
    Spector
    Dyer
    Boa Morte
    Savio
    Tristan

    If in a month or two Deano is fit and Savio has a bit more experience:

    Green
    Neill Collins Upson Ilunga
    Savio Behrami Parker Collison
    Ashton Di Michele

    Bench:
    Stech
    Kovac
    Spector
    Noble
    Dyer
    Boa Morte
    Cole

    One thing that looks a bit worrying is our

    In the summer I think the back line and center of midfield and goalkeeping positions are solid if we don’t have any major losses but I would consider getting some proven wingers unless Zola is for sure not going to use them. I would also want to take a step back and analyze the striker position but a lot depends on what happens the rest of this season as right now it could continue to click or it could fizzle out.

  27. chris says:

    Whats the story with Tristan?
    Find his signing confusing!
    never plays never looks like getting a run out.

  28. jon.london colney says:

    i cant see zola going with savio as first choice just yet,hes for the long run and weve seen what hes done with sears,ie nothing.bet those 2 are for the coco cup next season.as for ashton and dyer its make or break/whoops..time.i think theve got to the summer to prove fitness and if not adios.ide like to see ashton stay but only if he can be fit for a season,which seems a dream more than anything.isnt it nice to see a first 11 that picks itself at the moment,long may it stay that way.coyi

  29. dutchhammer says:

    I totally agree with ‘B F’ on his line up.

    But I also think that for now it is just to early to point out a starting 11 for the rest of the season. We just have to wait and watch how Kovac and Savio will adapt to PL football. One scenario: Kovac is to old, Savio is to young. But the other scenario is, Kovac can bring experience and extra fysique on Midfield and will be a great stand in at center-back. Savio has a great pace (why don’t we call him scooter know we didnt sign Moon?), and maybe he will be a great couple with cole…

    Off topic, I’m a bit worried about our young Freddy Sears. When I compare him with a year ago, I can’t see that much of an improvement. Allthough I only see games (and miss trainings) I expected him to be of bigger importance for the team at this stage. With buying Savio and Deano on his way back, I think Freddy wont make any (!) minute in the remaining matches. I think that’s a big dissapointment. I really hope Zola appreciates his talent and attitude as much as I do!

  30. Salesh says:

    When is dean ashton coming back??

    I cant see Cole and Ashton up front, because they are two similar.

    Zola will most likely try them both up front, and if it doesnt work he will drop one or the other and play di michele or savio.

    Or maybe, Savio on the left wing, Dyer on the right wing and maybe one up front, being Ashton or Cole???

    Long term its going to be Ashton and Savio imo.

  31. GHammer says:

    Time to upset a few of my fellow hammers.

    Iain your starting 11 has three things wrong with it for me IF we are talking about what the starting 11 should be next year when we have people fit etc.

    1) as stated by many Ashton is never going to be fit so we need to get rid and sign another top quality forward. however it is must be mobile, fit and clever and can then play alongside savio. In the short term lets stick with Cole.
    2) Deep breath!! No place for Noble – I urge all west ham fans to take off their claret and blue coloured glasses and realise that he ain’t up to the premiership as he has two serious dificiencies that affect all of his fellow midfielders who end up having to compensate. He is technically good and can finish and his passing is OK, However for a modern day footballer you must have pace and Noble has to be the slowest midfielder I have seen in a long while. That hampers his ability to get around the pitch and means that Parker et al have to do all his running. If Parker could be unleashed then i would do it, so for me we need a big powerful fit holding player behind Parker. QED Kovacs or at least what Kovacs is meant to be (reserve judgement til i see him).
    3) We must get a new right back for next year, Neill is nearly as slow as Noble. Good positionally and a leader but for next year someone quicker and more willing to overlap.

    Things looking good down at UP and the starting 11 you named is doing well but to progress I would make these three changes.

    watch all the Nobelites come flooding in – duck!!!

  32. D&G says:

    Savio isn’t a goal scorer and I’m baffled why people still seem to think he is a striker?

    He is a winger and that was the reason why Zola was still looking for a goalscorer (which never happened in the end)

    I think Noble might be the fallguy I feel……

  33. DevoDevo says:

    I’d like to see someone like Tomkins or Spence given a run at RB.

    Green

    Tomkins
    Upson
    Collins
    Ilunga

    Parker (holding)

    Dyer/Behrami (if KD never gets fit)
    Behrami/Noble (if KD never gets fit)
    Collison
    Savio

    Cole (I’d go for Cole as Ashton isn’t mobile enough to play up on his own).

    Bench:
    Lavtuska
    Kovac
    Noble
    Ashton
    Di Michele
    Sears

  34. Upton Parker says:

    Iain, obviously just an oversight but you’ve missed out Boa Morte…

    LOL 🙂

  35. Roshi says:

    The team as you have shown Iain, will begin to pick itself, like any top team.
    I agree with the earlier post about Dyer, although none of us know exactly what his real problems are, the longer his injury battle goes on, I’m afraid someone will sooner or later have to put their arm round his shoulder and give him the bad news. I really hope I am wrong.
    With Ashton, who knows? he has been injured so long, I don’t think he will ever pass a transfer medical, so I guess we will have to hope he recovers soon. The problem is when will the insurance company who cover the wages of injured players finally say enough is enough.

  36. IoDHammer says:

    No way will Ashton and Nsereko ever score more then Cole and Di Michele, Nsereko is unproven and may take a year or two to be a regular scorer and i dont think we will ever see Ashton back for more then 5 or 6 games, You just can’t fault Cole and Di Michele at the moment.

    Im loving this team though, under Curbs i used to read the team sheet and groan about most players, i now feel we are solid in every position, we arent even moaning about Neil any more! And that says something! The ONLY player in your line up Iain that i sometimes worry about is Noble, sometimes, rarely he can have a bad game. But whatever, the turn around these last two months is astonishing!

  37. Roymondo says:

    As I put in an earlier post, after the Arsenal game, I don’t think Di Michele is right away from home when we play the better teams and play a lot of the game in our own half. In those situations you need someone who can hold the ball up and that is just not his game. When we are at home and having a go at the opposition he is far more dangerous as he finds space and his little flicks, whilst infuriating when the don’t come off, are always likely to open a defence up.
    I can see Zola going for 4-5-1 in those difficult away games with Savio wide midfield. In fact that’s really what, at the moment, he appears to be.
    The Ashton situation is difficult. Even when he returns to full training (if!) it will take him a long time to get match fit due to his bulk. Just remember when he came back from his last long lay off, it took him ages to get anywhere near full sharpness. So it would appear that Cole will be first choice up front for some time to come and if he continues to improve at the rate he has since Zola arrived that shouldn’t be a problem.
    Dyer? Who knows.
    Anyway, from what we’ve seen so far, Zola and Clarke seem to know exactly what they want and I think they have earned the right to have our trust to make the right decisions.

  38. Dujon says:

    I’m liking DevoDevo’s formation. If anything that could be used if we aren’t finding the back of the Man U net on the 8th.

    COYI!, beat man u, you deffinately can do it !

  39. djclipz says:

    I feel savio will never be used as full on striker up front, i can see him being a supporting left winger that cuts inside. When he has come on recently that seems to be the position he has occupied and is no way near as far up as cole! If this is the case we really need another winger on the right which dyer would probably fill if he was ever fit! Besides while our 442 is obviously working for us at the minute with cole and di michele up front i think we should stick with it a bit more, lets not forget we have scored 12 in our last 6 (Ok its not against man utd and chelsea every week, but its still a good return)Especially as Zola even said we need to wait to see the effects of savio especially as he even needs to settle in the first place. Also dramtically changing the side for man utd i don’t think would be a great idea.

    So my lineups:

    GK:GREEN,
    DR:Neill,DC:Upson,DC:Collins,DL:Ilunga
    MR:Behrami,DM:Parker,AM:Noble,ML:Collison
    ST:Cole,ST:Di Michele

    For future (*NS – New Signing)
    GK:GREEN
    DR:Neill/*NS,
    DC:Upson,
    DC:Collins/Kovac,
    DL:Illunga
    DM:Parker/Kovac,
    MC:Behrami,
    MC:Collison/Noble
    RW:Dyer/*NS
    LW:Savio
    ST:Cole/Ashton/*NS

  40. djclipz says:

    oh pantz, sorry about the smiley faces, didnt realise it would do tht, im sure u can guess who they are though

  41. DevoDevo says:

    I’m with Raymondo – I don’t think Di Michele is as effective away from home. In fact, I’ll stick my neck out and say that he probably won’t look as effective against the better sides!

    It’s clear from the posts above that nobody would play Noble in a fully fit squad and I think this is solely down to his lack of pace. No one can doubt his ability on the ball, but pace is a pre-requisite of being a top footballer these days.

    The evolution of the team will also depend on the introduction of our young players such as Stanislas. When, where and how Zola/Clarke introduce these players to first team football will ultimately decide whether these players flourish as West Ham players or elsewhere.

    In Zola we trust.

  42. IoDHammer says:

    Ok, if we are talking about Noble’s pace and therefore place int he squad and the evolution of the team, does anyone think he will be sold of in the summer in place of someone quicker?

    Is there anyone else other then LBM who we could replace?

  43. Paul M says:

    Who’d be a manager eh ? decisions decisions.None of us can second guess the team that GZ/SC will pick as tactics change for every game/team. We are in a good place right now, we have a dilemma of who is best in each position.
    The only dead-certs are:
    Green
    Upson & Illunga
    Parker & Behrami
    Probably Cole up front due to Ashton not being fit.

    Other than these you can pick:
    backs
    Collins, Neil, Kovac. Behrami can play right back?
    midfield
    Savio, Noble, Collison, Kovac (holding)Dyer when/if fit
    Front
    Di Michele, Sears, Savio(?) Tristan

    As I said who’d be a manager. But for this weekend I would like to see this:
    Green
    Neil Collins Upson Illunga
    Kovac

    Behrami Parker Collison Savio
    Cole

    Subs: Stech/Lashtuvka Noble, Tomkins, Di Michelle & Sears

    If Ashton and Dyer were available I would drop Kovac, move Behrami into the middle and put Dyer on the right.Ashton up front with Savio floating behind.

    irons

  44. Frankie D says:

    Noble would be on the bench for me. He is carried way too much…looking like the new Lampard but has less ability.

  45. Paul M says:

    Sorry, Kovac as holding midfield, Cole up front with Behrami and Savio flying up the wings

  46. Di Stanio says:

    In reference to Ghammer about Noble. Im not in any way saying he is as good, but neither Lampard or Scholes have pace. I also think that a player like Noble in our team will not be as protected in his younger years as a similar player at a larger club therefore we tend to see deficiencies a bit more but give him time. What i like and wont harm us at all at the moment is noble is getting a start in the team but zola is clever enough to sure it up after 75 minutes by replacing him with a more defensive player or if we need to chase the game take collison and put a winger on. i believe if collison was in the middle we find the same problem, maybe its called education. but both are still young.
    As for savio, i think he is in the mould of an ashley young who should be played on the left or as a striker, dont think he will be a right winger (although right footed).

  47. IoDHammer says:

    Aparantly we are allowing Della Bona to train with us, hes a free agent, here is the story

    http://www.skysports.com/story/0,19528,11661_4893718,00.html

  48. Liam says:

    I’d have the same team, except i’d have Dyer at the tip of the diamond. Noble can rotate with Collison/Behrami.

    Definietly have Deano in. This is assuming every one is at peak fitness though.

  49. Ollie says:

    Ashton was finished over a year ago.

    Too fat, too fragile, too slow.

    Noble is well worth his place.

    Neill and Illunga are sub-standard.

  50. djclipz says:

    as long as its just training… he’s not a right midfielder is he?

  51. snowman says:

    think people are being a bit harsh on carlton cole. 2 months ago i thought he was dreadful, but he’s turned it around and will be in the next england squad. compared to ashton (always injured and when he isnt, looks unfit and over-weight) theres only one winner. have a bit more faith in carlton cole i say

  52. Mike says:

    I think Jack Collison really reminds me of a young Frank Lampard more so than Nobes. Just cos of his awesome turning centre, vision, clean passing strokes and picks up good positions on the edge of the box. I think he’s a quality player, certainly better than Lamps himself was at just 20 years of age, and as an when he is deployed in his ACTUAL position which is offensive CENTRAL midfield, he will truly start to flourish. “Collison Collison Collison…!” 🙂

  53. jon.london colney says:

    ian,we all look the same but you have a picture !

    please help!

  54. matthew says:

    10 reasons to be a happy Hammer
    After enduring a torrid time in 2008 – both on and off the field – West Ham have finally come good under the guidance of Gianfranco Zola…

    Carlton Cole

    England’s desire to employ the big-man-little-man forward line has led to plenty of players being labeled “the new Emile Heskey”. Most have dropped into obscurity, resulting in the Lazarus-like resurrection of Heskey himself. Yet, at the moment, Carlton Cole appears to be the real deal. The striker drifted around Chelsea’s reserves before moving to West Ham in 2006, where his career started slowly. However, this season he’s been excellent and in his last five games he’s scored five goals – as well as contributing four assists – making him undroppable for West Ham and a possible for Fabio Capello’s next England squad.

    Gianfranco Zola

    It’s probably a bit premature to declare West Ham: “everybody’s second favourite side”, but with the little Italian at the helm they’ve certainly shed their dislikeable image. Not only has he brought his impish grin and schoolboy enthusiasm to grounds across the country but he has also managed to get the Hammers playing fluid, attractive football.

    Steve Clarke

    Everybody has an opinion on why Chelsea are struggling this season. Some blame injuries to key players others blame a lack of cohesion up front, however the smart money is on Steve Clarke’s departure in the autumn. Clarke was a key figure at Chelsea during the glory years and he commanded the respect of most of the senior players. Without him they look a shadow of the side that won the league two years in a row.

    Collins and Upson

    In Matthew Upson and James Collins West Ham have a pair of Titans at the back. Upson has featured in every one of West Ham’s League games this season while Collins has only missed three matches. Their collective display against Sunderland was a masterclass in no-nonsense defending. Every ball that was played forward was confidently repelled by the duo as the Black Cats attack withered under the floodlights.

    Craig Bellamy

    One thing that you can rely on in football is Craig Bellamy’s unreliability. On the 18 December the Welsh striker and part time golfer declared that he was “Happy at West Ham”, yet merely a month later he decided he had had enough at Upton Park and hopped aboard the Manchester City gravy train. There is no doubt that Bellamy is a talented footballer, but injuries and lack of form meant that he only managed seven league goals during his time at West Ham. Couple this with the significant profit the Hammers made on his £14 million transfer to Manchester City and you have a great bit of business by Zola.

    Youngsters

    Somewhere in an alternative universe West Ham are reigning Premier League champions with a team consisting of: Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Michael Carrick, and Jermain Defoe. A nice thought, but even though Hammers’ fans may lament those enforced sales they can still be proud that the Upton Park factory is still pumping out youngsters at a fair old rate. Last season Freddie Sears, James Tomkins and Jack Collison all made good impressions and as long as they can hold on to them the future looks bright.

    Summer signings

    Selling Anton Ferdinand and George McCartney – two of West Ham’s better players – and bringing in the likes of Valon Behrami, Herita Ilunga and David Di Michele didn’t look the greatest move. However, all three new signings have fitted in seamlessly. Ilunga is defensively competent as well as an attacking threat, Behrami is a potent wide player, and Di Michele – as shown by his match-winning performance against Hull – is acting as the team’s creative fulcrum.

    Robert Green

    In Robert Green the Hammers have one of the best goalkeepers in the country. A reliable shot-stopper who often pulls off exquisite saves, Green isn’t bad at saving penalties either, stopping three spot kicks last season. At 29 Green is in his prime and has been knocking on the England door for years. Last season he had “England’s No.6” stitched on to his gloves as he laughed off not being picked for the national side. He might not be playing for England yet, but he’s certainly West Hams’ no 1.

    Scott Parker

    Every club needs a player like Scott Parker; someone who can break-up an attack and propel the side forward. It’s not a glamorous job – and often goes without praise – but like binmen and farmers, if they weren’t there everything would fall apart. While Cole and Upson have rightly drawn praise, Parker has been quietly working away in the background and after a sluggish start to the season he’s finally proving he is no flop.

    Current form

    Before Christmas West Ham’s form was patchy; they secured draws against both Chelsea and Liverpool but lost to Hull and Bolton. Since the turn of the year they have been sublime, progressing into the fifth round of the FA Cup and rising up the League. Crucially they’ve also beaten the sides around them ensuring that, although they are probably not good enough to qualify for Europe, they certainly won’t be involved in the relegation scrap.

  55. eastend says:

    Green
    Neill – Collins – Upson – Ilunga
    Behrami – Parker – Noble
    Dyer – Cole – Savio

    Tomkins
    Stech
    Kovac
    Sears
    Tristan
    Di Michele
    Collison

  56. Dujon says:

    Although Savio might not be ready, the Man U defence does need quite a force to be penetrated. His blistering speed and ball skills might get them off their feet. Even if he can’t quite finish the job, he can distract them with his runs up the wings then lob one into Cole. Like 1 (or both) of Bellamy’s goals against portsmouth.

  57. Roshi says:

    Yeah, thanks for that Matthew, I’ll keep an eye out for them, what they called, West Ham, OK

  58. Mick in Iceland says:

    I just see Dalla Bona might be looking for a job at Westham, don’t know whether he has lost any of his former class but at 27 here is one good goal scoring midfielder he could be a terrific asset to the squaud and on a free why not!

  59. djclipz says:

    could of at least given credit to who actually wrote it too!!

  60. Paul Anderson says:

    I thought Lucas Neil was the worst full back in the Premier League until Julien Faubert stood in for him. So I can’t bring myself to name him in my best 11.

    Selecting a fit Dean Ashton seems about as realistic as selecting a young Geof Hurst at centre forward. Ditto Kieron Dyer – Alan Devonshire would be my choice in his position.

    Being somewhat serious, can anyone remember when Dean Ashton was last actually fit, and I mean match fit. I seem to recall he was recovering from injury in the 2006 cup final, and he seems to have been either injured or returning from injury ever since.

    My team would be:

    Green
    Not Lucas Neil
    Illunga
    Collins (despite reservations about his pace)
    Upson
    Parker
    Noble
    Behrami
    Collison
    Cole
    Nsereko

    Subs:

    A goalkeeper.
    Sears.
    Tomkins.
    Kovacs.
    Spector.
    K Reid.
    A Devonshire (or K Dyer).

  61. James says:

    We defo need cole in the start up, He is the man to hold the ball up, Its between Ashton,Sears and Nsereko to fill the vacant strikers position in my opinion.

    Would be nice to see Ashton and Cole up front, Especially as cole is now performing, could be a winning partnership, Then during the game bring both Sears and Nsereko as subs to add a different dimension. Sounds good to me! We must not forget about Sears!!

  62. Dutch Hammer says:

    To me Collins looks a lot like Jaap Stam, back in his Man U days….

  63. P says:

    Ashton- Lazy, unfit, prone to asking to be taken off due to grazed ears and cramp. Get rid immediately. Not sure Zola even rates him anyway.
    Noble- By a mile our weakest link in midfield. Players his age should be progressing each season not regressing. Academy product or not, theres no room for sentiment in top flight football especially if you’re not making the grade.
    Cole- Our top scorer. Out performed all other strikers for last two seasons. Zola says he will pick teams (when all players fit) based on form alone, which means Cole is obvious first chooice. Plus Cole is Zolas little side project so he won’t be discarding him just yet.

  64. Rob says:

    You’re lucky, I support Forest and our first team isn’t your 9th team.

  65. suffolkhammer says:

    For me lucas neil not up to it so i’d go 4-3-3 see no point discussing Ashton or Dyer with the current squad id like to see this

    Green

    ilunga
    upson
    collins
    behrami

    Collison
    parker
    noble

    savio
    cole
    di michele

  66. darren says:

    Is ashton going to be the player he was he’ll have to earn his place in the side now. subject to everyone being fit.

    Green

    neill
    collins
    upson
    illunga

    behrami
    dyer
    parker
    collison

    nsereko
    cole

    SUBS
    noble
    di michele
    ashton
    kovac
    lastuvka
    gabbidon

    no place for boa morte

  67. Goatygav says:

    If it ‘aint broke then do we need to fix it? I’m sticking with the current first 11 but would be monitoring Mark Noble over the next 3-4 games to see if he improves as he’s not been up to his usual high standard: –

    Green
    Neill
    Collins
    Upson
    Ilunga

    Behrami
    Noble
    Parker
    Collison

    Cole
    Di Mic

    If Dyer’s fit he should start at the expense of Noble. I’d have Behrami Left, Collison and Parker centre mid and Dyer wide right.

    The bench should have as many young, academy produced, players as possible but Kovac and Savio need to be in there: –

    Stech
    Tomkins
    Kovac
    Sears
    Lopez
    Reid

    Last

  68. brooking is still the best says:

    Does everyone think Di Michele and Tristan will be here next year. I think Zola might bomb Tristan out and buy a striker that might challnge for a first team start. Di Michele has done ok but if he isn’t starting a game very often, will he be happy bench warming at his age? I can see them both going in the summer and us buying a younger, fitter striker with bags of potential

  69. Luke says:

    what about danny gabbidon?

  70. Ian the Iron says:

    Just want to say that people are seriously putting Kovac in ahead of Noble??!!! Have you ever seen him play?? Kovac is a very good defensive midfielder, operating in the Makelele role! To partner him and Parker in midfield would be no where near creative enough and very negative,considering Behrami and Collison are not natural wingers and like to drift infield.
    One thing im confident in is that each player is going to have to earn their place on merit and it will take something special to break into the team for the players returning from injury i.e. Dyer and Ashton!
    My starting eleven would be
    Green
    Neill Collins Upson Ilunga
    Behrami Parker Noble Collinson
    Ashton Savio

  71. Paul M says:

    brooking i s t best – someone like….. Freddie Sears
    perhaps

  72. Goatygav says:

    Make that Behrami Right & Dyer Left Mid. I do know my right from left – honest!!

  73. Eddie Chappers says:

    I would be very hesitant to criticise Noble just yet, admittedly his performances haven’t been quite up to scratch recently but remember his development was heavily influenced by injury last season and I think he set himself a very high benchmark to which we now judge him with his performances in the ‘great escape’ season. I agree though that being an Academy product should not make him immune to criticism but I hope that he can get himself back to the player he has always threatened to be.

    On a side note I also hope that Sears can seize upon any opportunities that come his way as I have a feeling they may be slightly more limited going forward and so far this season I think he has failed to impress with the limited chances he has had.

  74. Goatygav says:

    Completely agree Eddie Chappers. In fairness his form does seem to be going back in the right direction again but he’s still a little off the pace – especially when compared with the awsome Jack Collison.

    What news of Kieron Dyer. On his day he’s a class act and a player I’d very much like to see make a successful return.

  75. Eddie Chappers says:

    I agree Goatygav- Collison has burst onto the scene as Nobes did with tremendous enthusiasm matched by obvious ability but Nobes is currently playing in a very talented and hard-working midfield unit which obviously accentuates any poor form as well.

    As far as I know Kieran has a calf pull/ strain/ tear (depending who you listen to) and should be back before the end of the month. I would also like to see him back though I would not risk him on the right as he would leave Neill too open, unlike Behrami!!

  76. Rob says:

    So, all in all, is Zola a good coach or a OK one?

  77. Doc H Ball says:

    Next season. 2 signings (20m) and a good looking 1st 11. 6 home grown as well…

    Green

    Ilunga
    Glenn Johnson
    Upson
    Collins

    Behrami
    Collison/Noble
    Parker
    Joe Cole

    Ashton/Cole
    Savio/Sears

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