Dan Chesters: West Ham United U23s must win the possession battle against Arsenal
Viewers of West Ham TV’s live stream of the U23s’ 3-0 win over Leeds United U23s on Monday evening might have been able to hear Mark Robson reiterate a key message from the sidelines throughout: stay patient.
Since his arrival in November, the Hammers’ new lead coach has set out his stall to dominate – by controlling both tempo and possession – matches in Premier League 2 Division 1.
Five wins in six games since his arrival, including four clean sheets, is testament to the control which has helped West Ham open up a four-point gap at the top of the table.
Yet the development squad’s next assignment is likely to be a severe acid test of their progress in that regard, with a trip to Arsenal U23s – who, like their senior side, play possession-based football – on Friday evening.
“Hopefully, we can win the possession battle against Arsenal,” Dan Chesters told whufc.com.
“It was a great three points to take us even further clear on Monday, and with a game in hand over Manchester City. We’re in a really good position.
“In the first half Leeds had a lot of possession so it was really tough on our legs, running-wise, but in the second half we started to get going, made the breakthrough and then got two more.
“Obviously the lads will be confident on Friday after that. We’ll try to play our own game.
“If we can play like we did in the second half on Monday, I think we’ll proceed to get the three points.”
Having started their campaign with a 6-1 defeat to West Ham’s U23s at London Stadium, Arsenal’s talented side went on a fine run themselves, topping the table for several weeks earlier in the campaign.
One win in their last six games, however, means that Kevin Betsy’s young Gunners now sit fourth – but they remain just seven points behind the boys in Claret and Blue, aware a home win at Meadow Park would propel them right back into the title race.
Creative midfielder Chesters feels that establishing the control his team had during the second half against Leeds on Monday could be key to West Ham coming away with another win.
“Sometimes, we were finding in the first half that we were trying to attack too quickly,” Chesters recalled. “We kept losing the ball.
“In the second half, when we won it back and stayed calm, we really started to plot our movement and we got three goals from that, which was good.
“I think it’s important to stay calm when you get ahead. You’ve got to keep your head in the game and then be a professional about it and see out the win.
“Hopefully we will on Friday.”
Kick-off is at 7pm on Friday 14 January. Fans are able to attend the match at Meadow Park, the home of Boreham Wood, provided an NHS QR Code is scanned in upon entry.
Supporters can also follow the U23s in action via whufc.com, with our live blog coverage, and on social media.