Joe Enjoying Battle

Joe Cole feels he is bouncing back from the injury problems which plagued him at the start of the season.

In the space of eight days he has faced Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira in the heart of the midfield battle zone - and has come through the tests with some aplomb.

He is revelling in the central midfield position where he is able to display not only his silky skills, but show the aggressive side of his game as well - as proved by the yellow card he received for fouling Sylvain Wiltord in frustration, having just been apparently clattered by Gilles Grimandi in a challenge that went unpunished.

Joe holds his hands up to that foul but prefers to concentrate on the positive side of the tussle.

Talking of his new role in the centre, he says: "People have told me I can't play there but I love that position. It is how I love to play and to be able to do it for West Ham makes me really feel that I'm taking a step up in my game now and I'm looking forward to every match.

"I want to be judged on my performances on the pitch like every other player wants to be - fairly judged, and picking up points for West Ham.

"Keane and Vieira are amongst the best players in the world, and it is a great test for me and Michael."

Joe managed to get Vieira's shirt as a souvenir after the game - but showed he wasn't overawed by him during it.

Indeed, even Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was full of admiration for Joe, speaking about his maturity, strength, dribbling and passing ability.

Of the match overall, Joe says: "You'd have taken a point at the start of the game, considering the form they have been in, but when we get on the pitch it is 11 against 11 and we hope to beat anyone.

"Conceding a goal at any time is bad and we just have to try and pick ourselves up and get a second goal when that happens.

"I thought we defended well and passed really well. It was a good performance, we're edging up the table, and the performances are improving, which is the main thing."

Joe was one of four West Ham bookings by Mike Riley, and one of them, in particular, was controversial.

Paolo Di Canio was carded for what Mr Riley saw as a dive when he was challenged by Martin Keown, and later on Robert Pires received the same punishment in almost the same spot with Tomas Repka close by.

But there can be no appeal against the decision in this case - which means that Paolo will miss the home game with Liverpool on December 29.

Secretary Peter Barnes confirms: "You cannot appeal against a caution unless it is for perceived mistaken identity, which was clearly not the case in this instance."