'We had to dig deep'

Alan Curbishley remains upbeat despite the 2-0 loss at the Emirates Stadium - emphasising that he was pleased to see his team not lose heart.

An early strike by Eduardo and a virtuoso second from Emmanuel Adebayor set Arsenal on their way on New Year's Day. Instead of heads going down, the visitors kept on fighting throughout the London derby. "It was probably just one game too many for us over Christmas, but both sides ran out of legs by the end," the manager said.

"It wasn't the start we wanted of course, letting in a goal in the first couple of minutes because that's not what we have been about at all this season. The back four, all our defenders, have been fantastic for us and, while it was a great finish from Eduardo, that hasn't been us this season, conceding like that, so we were disappointed. It can be a bit of an uphill task from them scoring early, but you have to regroup and get on with it."

Mindful of the exertions of Saturday's 2-1 home win against the champions and well aware that Robert Green had to pick the ball out of the net six times at Reading on this day a year ago, Curbishley added: "The Manchester United match took a lot out of us as well. I said to them at half-time, we have done ever so well so far this season, we have got to dig in and make sure it doesn't become like last New Year's Day. We had to dig deep and I am really pleased that we did that."

With four matches played in quick succession, Curbishley said he would have liked to have changed the team around to keep it fresh but had been unable. "I couldn't rest anyone because of injuries and if you look at Arsenal, they had a great result up at Everton before this game and only made one change today.

"Scotty Parker and Nobby Solano who were very much influential to us in the first half against United, were out today and Freddie [Ljungberg] - we think it might be his hamstring - had to come off. The back four, who I have mentioned, the likes of Greenie, Lucas [Neill], Matty Upson and George [McCartney] have played near on every game this season and I was bit worried, but they got through it all and now we get on with the next game coming up."

Explaining his formation that saw Carlton Cole get the lone striker's role ahead of Dean Ashton, Curbishley said: "We put Deano on the bench because we wanted a 4-5-1 and Coley was more suited to that, but even he ran out of legs in the end.

"With Deano, we have managed to get him through the first half of the season and have got to be careful with him, he understands that. We have another game in four days [against Manchester City] which is coming up quick and so the thinking behind it all is making sure we are all getting through it. Leading up to the Manchester United game, Deano had four games in space of two weeks himself so we will see now what we have for the weekend."

Another positive for the manager was the debut of 19-year-old midfielder Jack Collison, who came on for the injured Ljungberg. Young defender James Tomkins was also on the bench and the West Ham United boss said he would have had not qualms about playing him either if needed.

"They are two young lads who have been training with us regularly and I just felt that with the both of them, let's give them a go. They are players full of enthusiasm. Jack came on in a difficult situation, we were behind, away at Arsenal , but he acquitted himself very well.

"I wouldn't have been adverse to putting James Tomkins on as well if it had to be done. They are two young boys who have come to Emirates today and really enjoyed it. I know we have been beat, and we're not happy about that, but two people have been given a bit of a lift today being with the first team."

Curbishley said he was hopeful that Matty Etherington may be back in contention to play against City in the FA Cup third-round tie this weekend while Lee Bowyer also has an outside chance. France winger Julian Faubert, yet to feature for the Hammers, is also continuing his return to fitness in full training.

While defeat at the league leaders was disappointing, Curbishley can still be satisfied with the two wins and one draw collected over the busy festive season. "When you compare with where we were this time last year, we will be pleased - but also a bit frustrated. With the situation we are in, it has perhaps stopped us from pushing on that bit more which we would have liked.

"Last year was fantastic in terms of getting out of trouble and doing what we have done so far this season. The positive way also to look at it all, is that people who might not have got the chances, have taken them. Together with players to come back it has and will continue to make the squad stronger."