Fabian Balbuena believes the harmony within the West Ham United squad this season has been a driving force behind their impressive Premier League form.
Prior to Saturday’s late loss to Manchester United, the Irons had won three top-flight games back-to-back and had claimed eight points from the 15 available against finishers in last season’s top seven.
Even during defeat, the team in Claret and Blue impressed in many aspects save for their efficiency in front of goal, which ultimately proved costly against the Red Devils.
Having been at the core of a number of high-flying sides during his time in South America – including helping Club Nacional become only the second-ever Paraguayan team to reach the Copa Libertadores Finals in 2014 – 29-year-old Balbuena intuitively recognises the ingredients of a successful Club.
Most important of those, he reasons, is togetherness – a bond which has paid dividends for those in Claret and Blue out on the pitch this campaign.
“In the dressing room, in training, everyone is happy,” the No4 said. “With the lads, it seems like we are a big family here and everyone enjoys everything from the breakfast to… well, everything!
“We try to translate that to the pitch as well, try and do our jobs of course to try to get the results, and I think we are doing well.
“The base of that is that togetherness, the happiness that we have in the dressing room, and then trying to translate it onto the pitch.”
Such has been the consistent calibre of their performances so far this season, morale has not been dampened by Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the Red Devils.
The fans’ return was amazing. When we went onto the pitch, we saw them screaming, they clapped and sang and supported us. We saw them and it was an amazing sensation
Conversely, Balbuena believes that the return of West Ham United fans to London Stadium has buoyed the squad’s mood still further, with lessons learned in defeat.
The centre-back reasoned: “Our performance in the first half was amazing. I think that we were aggressive, played with intensity, and in the second half we tried to keep that going.
“I think we did until their first goal, and then I think we dropped a little bit. Those ten minutes against top players… we cannot drop that intensity, that aggressiveness in the match. They took the result – they had good players and the quality to do that.
“Having fans back was amazing. When we went onto the pitch, we saw them screaming, they clapped and sang and supported us. We saw them and it was an amazing sensation.
“It felt like we were the top Club in the Premier League because the feeling was very good. Hopefully, in the next games, they can come back and we can have a lot more fans.”
The Hammers will have the opportunity to bounce back to victory at the first time of asking when they travel to Leeds United on Friday evening.
West Ham will kick-off at Elland Road for the first time since March 2012 in the knowledge that three points would see them shoot up to fifth in the Premier League table.
Going into the contest, they have the edge in terms of form on hosts Leeds, who have won just one of their last five league games and currently lie in 14th.
Balbuena, however, has garnered enough experience over his two seasons in the Premier League to recognise that every club in the competition needs to be respected and well countered to win against.
The 29-year-old knows that the Lilywhites have a squad full of dangerous attacking talents, and feels that to get three points in Yorkshire will demand a performance of endeavour and intensity from his side.
“Patrick Bamford is the main player in their attack, but Leeds switch a lot in the transition while playing,” he said.
“We have to be careful of every player, because every player could hurt us or score, so we just need to be focused defensively to try to avoid it.
“As I say, we are working hard and training hard. We are preparing well to try to come into the game well, and try to get the result.
“We know that Leeds are a good team. They have good players and good quality in the final third. We’ll try to avoid letting them score and, of course, try to do our work as well to get the result.”