Big Sam on - Arsenal

West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce faced the media ahead of Saturday's trip to the Emirates to play Arsenal. 

Here's what he had to say about the benefits of warm-weather training, team news for the trip to northj London and Arsenal's strengths and weaknessess... 

Morning Sam, did you get what you wanted from your trip to Dubai?

"Yes, everyone enjoyed the break. The facilities were excellent and it was nice to see my old pal Michel Salgado, who I had at Blackburn with me.

"The lads enjoyed the quality of the training sessions and what Dubai has to offer. I think a little bit of rest, both mentally and physically, will help us to win more games in the last ten games of the season. Obviously we’re all looking forward to the games and picking up as many points as possible."

It was almost like a mini winter break, which you’ve done quite a few times in your career, haven’t you?

"Yes, I’ve done it every season for 13, 14 seasons. The research by the LMA shows the benefits of having a break and the evidence shows the risk of injuries decreases.

"Every team gets very fatigued in and around Christmas and it takes a while to recover. I think it’s a big reason why our teams don’t do that well in Europe. But for us, it’s about being fresh for final ten games and picking up as many points as possible."

Alex Song was one of the players who didn’t travel, so he could work on is fitness, so has that worked out?

"I think so. He also had a bit of a knee problem which he’s been able to get treatment for. So his fitness has come on a lot which is good for everyone."

Are there any other new injuries?

"Well we’ve got a concern about Enner Valencia who cut his toe quite severely on a broken cup at home. It’s been stitched together but we don’t know how serious it is yet. It was a freak accident and it remains to be seen whether he’ll be ready for Arsenal, it seems unlikely but we’ll have to wait and see."

You go to Arsenal this weekend, which is a tough game at the best of times, but even more so without a full squad to choose from?

"Yes of course, yet again we don’t have a full squad to pick from. I hope we put in the same level of performance as we did against Chelsea.

"I watched Arsenal’s game away at Manchester United and everyone could see the quality they have. We know how difficult it is at the Emirates, where we’ve actually gone in front a few times but not managed to hold on.

"We’ll go there and give it our best shot and see what happens. We’ll try and do what we did against Chelsea and see if that’s good enough to get us a result."

Monaco turned them over recently, so can you learn from that game about Arsenal’s weaknesses?

"Monaco have been good at not conceding goals, something we haven’t been good at. I think they’ve only conceded one goal in eleven games or something like that. Arsenal have a few weaknesses like everybody does. We have to exploit them but also take our chances.

"I don’t think we missed more chances in a game than we did against Chelsea, or since I’ve first played Chelsea with Bolton in 2001. So when we get the chances we have to take them."

Where are Arsenal’s main threats?

"I think they have different threats from all over the team, which is why they are so difficult to beat, especially at home. We conceded two goals very quickly in the reverse fixture which was the only difference between the two teams on the day."    
Sam, you talked about the importance of being strong defensively, so how big a loss in Winston Reid going to be?

"Well I thought when James Collins came on against Chelsea he did a brilliant job. Obviously we have to change Carl Jenkinson because he’s an Arsenal player, too. Our lack of goal scoring power is a concern at the moment with the injuries we’ve got. We don’t have many alternatives to turn to either. But I’ve said to the lads, if we continue to play the way we have been doing then the results will come for us and they’ll get the rewards they deserve."

There have been reports about Manchester City’s interest in Aaron Cresswell and talk of a new contract for him...

"I wouldn’t have thought there needs to be a new contract because he’s got four years left I think it is. So there’s no rush or pressure. It’s one for the Chairmen but I doubt there’ll be any action needed. We don’t act on anything that’s all rumour and speculation."