Clarke happy with diamond geezers
THE LONGER West Ham s fine unbeaten run continues, the more assistant manager Steve Clarke seems to gain the plaudits of both the fans and the experts, writes DAVE EVANS. The rejuvenation of Carlton Cole as a goalscorer and the new-found flair of David Di
THE LONGER West Ham's fine unbeaten run continues, the more assistant manager Steve Clarke seems to gain the plaudits of both the fans and the experts, writes DAVE EVANS.
The rejuvenation of Carlton Cole as a goalscorer and the new-found flair of David Di Michele, have been put firmly at the door of manager Gianfranco Zola.
But the organisation of the team, the defensive steel and most importantly the battling midfield have been attributeds to Clarke and it seems to be the combination of the two men that have revitalised the club.
It appears that the Hammers' midfield four has been the secret of West Ham's recent success, but as the assistant boss admitted, it has taken a little time to reach that final formation.
"We tried to play one way and we would have liked to have continued playing that way, but we just weren't getting the results," explained Clarke.
He was referring to the 4-3-3 formation that Zola and Clarke initially adopted, leaving Carlton Cole up front on his own with two wide men cutting in to add to the attack and the full backs getting forward at every opportunity.
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It was enough to beat a woeful Newcastle at Upton Park, but players seemed unfamiliar with it and it never really worked smoothly.
"Some of the performances were good under that system, but we couldn't see the matches out and we lost a lot of late goals," he added.
The turning point seemed to come at Old Trafford where at 2-0 down at the break they reverted to a 4-4-2 and held United at bay in the second half.
"We decided to change it and actually went for a flat 4-4-2 for a couple of games and that helped us to turn the corner - we got a good result at Anfield, and a victory at Sunderland," explained the assistant boss, but both he and Zola had something else up their sleeve as they decided to utilise the skills of Scott Parker with a different style of midfield, engineered on the Chadwell Heath training pitch.
"Slowly, with the strength of the players that we've got, we decided on a midfield which is more like a diamond shape and it has worked very well for us," said Clarke who has now seen the side let in just seven goals in their last 10 games.
The formation is loosely a diamond shape, but it is the fact that it is interchangeable that makes it so difficult to play against.
Parker is the rock on which this diamond sits, but the other three players - Mark Noble, Jack Collison and Valon Behrami, buzz around from position to position to cause maximum disruption to the opposition midfield.
It is a midfield that requires super-fit players and both youngsters Noble and Collison have looked visibly tired in recent games, but with Radoslav Kovac likely to add competition to those places, it looks like it may be a system that is here to stay.
West Ham fans will hope that Clarke is here to stay also.