Angelo Ogbonna believes West Ham United are already seeing the benefit of Manuel Pellegrini’s work with the defensive line in pre-season.
The Irons claimed a second pre-season victory on Wednesday evening as goals from Michail Antonio, Marko Arnautovic and Robert Snodgrass secured a 3-1 win against Aston Villa.
The Hammers enjoyed their most eye-catching performance of the summer so far, with Ogbonna and his defensive colleagues looking comfortable both with and without possession through the contest.
And the Italian reckons that he and his teammates are already seeing the benefits of the work manager Pellegrini has put in with the back-line.
“We have been working really hard and I think this is giving us a lot of optimism for this season,” Ogbonna told whufc.com. “The new manager is a really good person. We work with him every day on the shape and on the defensive line in the team. He wants us to stick together and keep working for each other.
Looking at games like tonight, against Villa, I think we’re seeing the benefits of our hard work. We were really compact and really focused.
“I think the defence isn’t just us in the back-line. I think it’s down to the whole team to defend. We have to decide as a team who will be pressing high and when it is time to just wait to intercept passes or attempts through the lines. I think it’s important to know what we are all doing – every player on the pitch – and we are working really hard on that.
“Looking at games like tonight, against Villa, I think we’re seeing the benefits of that hard work. We were really compact and really focused. We knew what we had to do to stop Villa from getting forward and I think, for the most part, we did it really well.”
The 30-year-old also hailed the efforts of record signing Felipe Anderson and defender Fabian Balbuena, who both made their West Ham debuts in Wednesday’s fixture.
The duo, along with Jack Wilshere, were the summer signings that started the midweek contest, while Ryan Fredericks and Issa Diop both made a showing from the bench at Walsall’s Banks’s Stadium.
Ogbonna continued: “The new players have mixed into the team really well. They are all working hard – as we saw tonight - and it’s important our new teammates are all made to feel welcome.
“We saw it in this game, how well they are fitting in, and they will all be crucial to the side for the season to come.”
West Ham return to action on Saturday with a fifth pre-season encounter, against Ipswich Town, and Ogbonna is ready for another run-out as the Irons continue their preparations ahead of the new campaign.
“Ipswich are another Championship side and it will be a difficult game,” he added. “Every game is tough in pre-season, but I think this is good for our fitness and improving our own situation.
“We have to look at it for what it is – a chance to train and get even better ahead of the Premier League season.”