Zola drawing on experience

As a player, Gianfranco Zola spent the vast majority of his career at the very top, challenging for league titles and trophies.

Back in 1992/93, however, it was a different story as Zola's SSC Napoli spent the season battling against relegation from Italy's Serie A just three years after winning the championship.

Ultimately, the Azzurri fought off the drop, finishing in eleventh place, just two points clear of relegated Fiorentina.

Now, 17 years later, the West Ham United manager can empathise with the situation his players find themselves in as they battle clear of the Barclays Premier League's lower reaches.

Zola believes his own experience will stand both himself and his squad in good stead as they prepare to take on local rivals Arsenal on Sunday.

"Once, in Naples, we were struggling big time. We were probably in the same situation like we are now. We were struggling so I know how difficult it is for the players to play in these situations because the confidence is not at the top. If you want to play good football, you have to be at the top of your confidence.

"I think this team trains better than we did back then. That is, for me, a good point."

The manager has also been hugely encouraged by the positive approach shown by his players in training, extending an invite to the reporters who have suggested that morale in the camp has been affected by recent results.

"I want to point out that, despite the poor league table position, that the team is playing very well. The attitude is brilliant.

"I would love to invite you to see the training sessions as they are very intensive and very focused. That is what makes a manager say 'Okay, it's not going to be long before we start winning matches'."

The positive vibes at Chadwell Heath, coupled with the encouraging performance in last weekend's narrow defeat at Stoke City, have reinforced Zola's belief in his own belief in attacking, free-flowing, passing football.

"I won't change. I would rather change my job! It's the way I like to play. It's the way I believe is right for this club. I won't change my principles because of some problems. I didn't change last year when I was having problems as well and, in the end, we came good.

"I do the job because I love to do it in this way and I won't change it.

"I never give up. I just challenge my players. My determination to succeed is stronger than anything. I will never let myself down. I will never show the players that I am letting myself down. I want from every one of them to do the same thing.

"We all have problems. Life is like that. You have problems in front of you. One thing that I want from the players and I impose on myself is not to look at the problems but to look at the solution to the problems. That's what I want from my players."

While he is demanding of his players, the manager is also setting himself high standards as he attempts to turn things around.

Zola even admitted that he has been sacrificing sleep in order to spend as much time as possible plotting a route up the Barclays Premier League table.

"Absolutely. That is the point. As a player it was easy because I would stick to my job and I would work harder. As a manager you have to rely on your players. I will be even more supportive to them. I will be more strict if I need to be strict, and I will be more inventive to find solutions to problems.

"I can tell you that this situation is pushing me a lot and it is a test for me, and I'm really working hard to sort it out.

"It does give me sleepless nights. It is a job, you can imagine, where you have to look after so many things. You go from one aspect to another and you're always looking for solutions. It is a job that keeps you very busy."