Stopping West Ham United U23s’ high-tempo football is one thing in theory – and entirely another in practice, according to captain Conor Coventry.
Ahead of the squad’s latest Premier League 2 Division 2 clash – a Friday night trip to Norwich’s Colney Training Centre – Coventry believes that intensity is at the core of all the good work his side have put in so far this season.
The U23s put in an excellent team performance on Monday night at Stoke U23’s bet365 Stadium, storming into a two-goal advantage with just 11 minutes played after brilliant strikes from Joe Powell and Nathan Holland.
Rapid starts have been a common feature of Dmitri Halajko’s side’s games this season – nine of their 33 goals have come inside the first 20 minutes – and Coventry believes it stems from the team’s work on the training ground.
“I think it’s something we’ve spoken a lot about in training, never coming out and taking time to get into sessions,” Coventry revealed.
“It’s something that we’ve really just been trying to focus on, with the pressure and the pace we have up top. I think teams see us press in their analysis videos, but then they don’t realise how hard it is to live with when it comes to the game.
“Our coaches got their tactics right to counter Stoke’s two different systems, and we gave everything to carry them out. If I’m being honest, they couldn’t live with our intensity and the speed of our play.”
They've always been great players, the attacking players we have here, but I think they've just added an extra clinical edge to their game recently.
Holland would subsequently strike again in the second half against Stoke, before Anthony Scully’s tenth competitive goal of the season, deep into injury time, put the gloss on the 4-0 win.
The Hammers were particularly clinical in their finishing on Monday evening, with four goals from seven shots in the match, and Coventry believes that building on that cutting edge could elevate his teammates to another level.
“They’ve always been great players, the attacking players we have here,” he said. “But I think they’ve just added an extra clinical edge to their game recently.
“It’s taken them up another level really. If they keep going like this, they’re just going to turn into even better players.”
As for Friday evening – the U23s’ second Premier League 2 Division 2 game in the space of five days – Coventry espies an opportunity to build on the Hammers’ three-point advantage over Manchester United at the top of the table.
He said: “We know Manchester United and Stoke are the two teams behind us, and they play each other on Friday night as well.
“One of them’s got to drop points, so if we go to Norwich and win, we’ll be in a great position at the top, so we’re really looking forward to it.
“Of course it’s tough [playing twice in a week], but it’s what you want – you want to play games. It’s a big game because Monday doesn’t matter if we go there and lose, so that’s the challenge now: can we deliver another performance like the one against Stoke?”
West Ham United U23s against Norwich U23s kicks off at 7pm on Friday night; as always, you'll be able to follow the game through whufc.com's live blog, with video highlights available the following day.