Jose Fonte hailed Slaven Bilic’s decision to switch to a back three for Monday’s confidence-boosting 2-0 Premier League victory over Huddersfield Town.
The West Ham United manager changed his tactics after seeing his side lose their opening three top-flight matches, all away from home, and concede ten goals in the process.
On his return to London Stadium, Bilic opted to return to the system that served his team so well in the closing weeks of last season, recalling Fonte and the fit-again Winston Reid alongside James Collins in an experienced central defensive trio.
The reward was a dominant display against the previously unbeaten Terriers, who the Hammers restricted to just two shots on target on their way to a first clean sheet in six Premier League matches.
We managed to keep a clean sheet, we felt safe and secure with the system we played
“A clean sheet was massive,” Fonte confirmed. “As a defender, it’s the worst possible feeling conceding three or four goals every game. It’s unbelievable.
“We managed to keep a clean sheet, we felt safe and secure with the system we played. It worked well when we used this system last year and, in this game, the manager reverted to last year and it was very successful.
“We’re really buzzing and happy with the result. Of course, it’s an important win after a few difficult weeks. Obviously, it’s three points and nothing more than that, but three points that will give us a little but more confidence.
“We are pleased with the win because it shows we have a great squad and now we can keep going and picking up points after points.”
The UEFA Euro 2016 winner looked rock steady on his return to the starting XI after missing the 3-0 defeat at Newcastle United, making two tackles and two interceptions and blocking Tom Ince’s goal-bound shot, while also seeing his header deflected into the path of Andre Ayew for the Hammers’ second goal.
While he was proud of his own display, and that of the team, Fonte was also pleased that the players produce the goods for manager Bilic after a difficult few weeks for the Croatian.
“He is a passionate manager and a great manager and he deserved this because he’s been under a lot of pressure, of course, as we all know. This is the business that we arein.
“It was important for him and it was important for us to show our attitude and that we are always with our manager and I’m pleased for him because it was his birthday and we gave him what he wanted.
“We are experienced enough to know we are all under pressure. This is our job and we get criticised for everything, so the best way to deal with it is to go to the training ground and work harder than ever and that’s what we’ve been doing, training as hard as we can to put things right.”
Next up for Fonte and company is a trip to The Hawthorns to take on Tony Pulis’s West Bromwich Albion, who go into Saturday’s game on the back of a 3-1 defeat at Brighton & Hove Albion.
“There are no easy games in the Premier League, as we all know,” the centre-back observed, “and West Brom will be a very tough game, but we are progressing and preparing for that game and we look forward to it.”