Here is our usual View From The Enemy feature, and this week we have an interview with the West Ham manager Slaven Bilic conducted by the official West Ham website. He sounds very calm and articulate and gives measured answers to his questioners. He certainly doesn’t need to shout at his players and his brilliant record this season speaks for itself. So let’s listen to what he has to say about the Arsenal game……
West Ham United boss Slaven Bilic spoke to the press ahead of his side’s home clash against Arsenal at the weekend.
The gaffer looked back to the Hammers’ victory over the Gunners earlier this season and evaluated his team’s confidence going into the game…..…..
Your opening fixture this season was a win against Arsenal – does that add to confidence going into this match?
Bilic – It’s about our form and position in the table that makes us quite confident. That game was ages ago, but it’s nice to know at the back of your head that we played and beat them earlier this season. It has not a lot to do with this game, however. Arsenal have great pace and skill and are very lethal especially in the beginning of games.
Both you and Arsenal want to finish in the top four and with that in mind, what sort of game are you anticipating?
First of all, it is a London derby and a big game. The season is approaching its end and it is very important for them and for us. We are both fighting for a place in Europe and from their point of view, they’re trying to be champions. They admitted that they must win all their remaining games, so it’s a big game with a lot at stake. They have said they need the three points and so do we to stay in the race, so it should be a really good game of football.
You’ve got two big games in the space of five days – do you think both are vital?
We play Arsenal, then have a cup replay against Manchester United, then go to Leicester. But we are approaching the Arsenal game and then we have three days to recover and think about Manchester United. We are going to put the best team out that we can on Saturday.
Do you have any injury updates?
We are good in that department at the moment. There is only James Collins and Sam Byram who haven’t trained with us for a few weeks now. Both are going to train with us tomorrow, but of course it is too early for them to be in the squad on Saturday, but they are coming back before the end of the season.
You’re unbeaten in 13 games at home, so are other teams seeing it as a fortress?
It’s nice to be unbeaten. I knew that we were, but not for 13 games. That shows that we are not counting things, and approaching every game as it comes. We know that we have a good record and that’s the reason we are high in the league.
It’s a strange quirk that Cheikhou Kouyate opened the scoring against Arsenal, and now after getting his red card rescinded, he’s available to play them again, isn’t it?
He’s a great player and he scored the first goal of the season for us and we’re delighted to have him back but, as I’ve said, he should never have got sent off in the first place. The good and proper decision has been made to overrule his red card.
Does not holding onto the lead against Crystal Palace hurt the confidence a little heading into this match?
We are still happy with where we are, but we want to grab every situation that is in front of us. We are not thinking about the end of the season, but only the game against Arsenal. We are playing at home, and make no mistake, we are going to do everything to win the game and stay in the race.
So there we have it. I must admit that his calm confident manner is inspiring, and has given me a few doubts ahead of tomorrows game. But surely Arsene Wenger can come up with the right tactics to come away with all three points?