Manager on Monday

It may be Christmas week but Gianfranco Zola and his squad are going to be hard at work preparing for Portsmouth away on Friday and Stoke City at home on Sunday.

After a run of four games that has seen his side more than hold their own in turn against the nation's top three Liverpool, Chelsea and Aston Villa - with Saturday's 1-0 reverse against the latter down to a large slice of bad luck - Zola knows his side have what it takes. Although there is need for the team to take their chances in the final third, the manager is confident his side can put that right.

"It is a tight championship so anything can happen. It is strange and we are very determined not to give into the situation. You can win two games and you can be in mid-table. It is still there but we need to improve [our finishing] because it is holding us up a lot. If we had scored four or five more goals maybe we would be celebrated a minimum of four or five points more."

The need for goals is paramount, with the team defending from the front in superb style. Home form is also key, in order to match the resilience shown away. "We played well [against Villa]. We tried everything, we created chances but we can't get it going right now and so it is becoming a problem but we are determined to change things around. We can't have this. We deserve much better than this and we want to change things around.

"Portsmouth and Stoke are more or less in the same position and it is down to us but in the Premier League you don't have easy games. So you need to perform as well as we did against Aston Villa and convert the chances you have." The tireless Carlton Cole and Craig Bellamy have been leading the Hammers' attack of late and the manager said there was no faulting the individual play or commitment from either.

"I have to say Bellamy is playing very well, Cole is as well but he needs to be more focused on scoring goals. He knows that. I am going to be working on his finishing every single day from now on until he is fed up with it." That approach will apply to the whole squad with the festivities of the week put aside in favour of first ensuring the travelling Boxing Day fans at Fratton Park get the display they deserve.

"There is not really any time off for the players," Zola said. "It is a busy time for us. We need to play two games and they are vital games. There is no time for rest - just time for working and winning games."