Slav hails hard-working duo
Slaven Bilic says Pedro Obiang and Simone Zaza personified the work-rate and attitude West Ham United need to show on a consistent basis.
The two former Serie A stars were to the fore in the Hammers’ 1-0 Premier League win at Crystal Palace on Saturday, as much for their defensive contributions than their attacking input.
Zaza won an incredible 12 aerial battles against Palace’s normally dominant centre-halves James Tomkins and Damien Delaney, while his work-rate in closing down the home back four resulted in numerous turnovers in possession.
Obiang, meanwhile, made four tackles, four clearances, an interception an 47 passes, including the raking ball out to Aaron Cresswell that led to Manuel Lanzini’s match-winning goal.
The manager singled out both players for praise, saying the level of effort they had put in set the standard that the Hammers will need to reach in every game if they are to continue climbing the Premier League table.
“We are going to have the opportunity to have another good season only if we perform like this without the ball,” Bilic observed.
“We have the quality, of course, but this is the cruellest league in the world if you are ten per cent below par in any aspect of the game. Sometimes you get luck and sometimes you win the game 3-0, but you cannot be like this.
“Pedro waited for chances. I spoke to him in the pre-season and he played 30-odd games for us last season, not always as a starter, and is a great example for everyone.
“Last time out against Middlesbrough he got the chance and used it really well. If he continues to play like this, the place is his.
“Zaza was different class on Saturday. I told him after the game ‘This is the Zaza I know from Sassuolo and from Juventus and the goals will come’. Goals are really important for strikers, but they will come.
“I told him after the game straight away ‘Zaza, you won today. Tonight you won more balls in the air against two good centre-halves in Delaney and Tomkins than you won in the four or five games you played before’. Without him, we wouldn’t have won, it’s as simple as that.”