Manager on Monday

Gianfranco Zola was full of praise for his youngsters after a spirited FA Cup tie with Arsenal that saw plenty of positives despite defeat.

The manager handed full debuts to 18-year-olds Fabio Daprela and Frank Nouble, while Anthony Edgar made his senior bow as a late replacement. The Hammers took the lead deservedly through Alessandro Diamanti's fourth goal in five matches just before half-time but were undone by a late Arsenal fightback through Aaron Ramsey and Eduardo.

"I know it was very close but I'm pleased at the performance from the team and I couldn't ask for anything more as they gave everything," said Zola. "When we had the goal in hand we had so many opportunities but we didn't manage to close the game down.

"In the last ten or 15 minutes when I knew we were going to go down physically, which I knew they were going to do as they worked so hard, they bought on people like [French internationals Abou] Diaby and [Samir] Nasri, it was more difficult.

"I take a lot of positives from this game. I must say that the team is giving 100 per cent and if we maintain those conditions, when we have everybody back, this team is going to be different and tough to beat."

He reserved special praise for Diamanti, who is proving a more than useful acquisition to the squad after just four months in English football. "Not only for the goal but his passing is very good," Zola said.

"In the second half he set up a couple of opportunities and he works very hard. He is one of the players that is becoming fundamental for this team and is coming better and better. He is a good positive note for us."

The tireless Valon Behrami also earned a mention with Zola commending him and Diamanti for their selfless play. "You see them on the pitch, the way they run and the way they chase. There was a couple of times Diamanti was chasing back like a crazy man and that shows you how much the players care about this team."

The manager is looking forward to potentially being able to recall the likes of Jonathan Spector, Mark Noble, Scott Parker, Jack Collison and Guille Franco next weekend when Wolverhampton Wanderers make the trip to the Boleyn Ground. With the positives from Arsenal to build on, he is more than optimistic that good times are ahead.

"When we have everybody back it will be a different story. The financial situation everyone knows. We have a stability and we don't have big problems. I'm expecting not to have everybody leaving."

Carlton Cole, meanwhile is "making good progress" from a knee injury, having been around the squad on Sunday - most notably to offer words of encouragement to 18-year-old forward Nouble before and during the game. "I don't want to force things," said Zola of his top scorer. "I think [his return] will be sooner rather than later."

The manager was left to conclude that his squad appear more than up for the challenge of the weeks and months ahead. "If we play with this attitude that we have showed in the last few games it will do us a favour. It depends on the players we can get back.

"We have important matches coming up, starting on Sunday, and if we play them with the attributes and some of the players are back we will be all right."