Angelo Ogbonna: West Ham United have so many leaders in our team

As a UEFA European Championship runner-up with Italy, a double Serie A winner with Juventus and a rock-solid consistent performer over six seasons with West Ham United, it’s perfectly natural many see Angelo Ogbonna as one of the Club’s leaders on the pitch.

Yet what the vastly-experienced 33-year-old is particularly enjoying about the makeup of this current West Ham team is just how many leaders there are.

Only Mark Noble has sat top of the table in Claret and Blue in his Premier League career thus far, but that is precisely the position Ogbonna and his teammates find themselves in after two rounds of fixtures.

The Hammers host Crystal Palace at London Stadium on Saturday afternoon seeking to extend that enjoyable stay – and the centre-back attributes that to his team’s collective focus.

“We’ve just started!” he smiled. “Of course, it’s nice, but after two games it’s too early to talk about top of the table, even if we are!

“I think our performances started from a while ago because we had a really good pre-season and we’ve just carried that on. Then, of course, we got to the top of the Premier League – but we are just focused, game by game.

“Our expectation against Crystal Palace is it’ll be a hard game. We can see now the Premier League is one of the best, if not the best, leagues in the world, and every year it keeps improving.

“I think the expectation from everyone is high so we need to be focused. Every game is a difficult game. We will not think just about them. We will try to manage the game as we can, and then try to play our own game.

“The way you start a season is very important and if you start well then things become much easier in the long process.”

The centre-back also believes his team have the character and ability to keep their winning run going at the start of the season.

“The atmosphere is always positive,” Ogbonna says of the group. “We speak together and we try to be focused for the next game every time.

“We have many leaders, I think. I think the season suspension with the pandemic [in 2019/20] affected us so much, so we tried to get something positive from that and I think it was a good way for us to look forward. 

“We’ve got many, many, many leaders I think at this moment, like [Michail] Antonio for his unbelievable achievement [becoming West Ham’s record goalscorer in the Premier League].  

“We need leaders and I think he [Antonio] is one of the best of them because if you have a leader at the front he can change the game..

“Pablo Fornals, Said [Benrahma]… after his first year, I think he’s started his second year really well. He came back from vacation really fit and he wanted to get involved.

“We have many more leaders:  Tomáš [Souček], Dec [Rice], [Aaron] Cresswell, Vlad [Coufal], Jarrod [Bowen]… I think it’s the best thing we can have.”

After the full-time whistle sounded on Monday evening’s 4-1 win over Leicester City, the result which pushed the Hammers to the top of the table, Ogbonna spoke of his pride at wearing Claret and Blue on such a special occasion.

A capacity 60,000-strong crowd roared the Irons on to a memorable performance and victory upon their return to London Stadium – and Ogbonna hopes their influence will be felt once again against Palace come kick-off on Saturday.

Speaking of fans’ returns to grounds, he said: “I think we recovered really well because in the first game [against Newcastle at St James’ Park], we went behind and we conceded goals, but then we played really well [and won 4-2]. 

“In the second game [against Leicester], at home in front of our fans, it was totally different. We got used to fans being back and I think our confidence is positive.

“I love the fans a lot! The other night, it seemed like a Champions League game back in the day! It was amazing for us. They affected the game, a hundred per cent. Our opponents felt their pressure.”

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