Daprela steps up with style

YOUNG DEFENDER Fabio Daprela received the ball in the left back position and calmly looked up, writes DAVE EVANS. Five seconds later he was on the edge of the Arsenal box winning a free kick that could so easily have led to West Ham s opening goal. But f

YOUNG DEFENDER Fabio Daprela received the ball in the left back position and calmly looked up, writes DAVE EVANS.

Five seconds later he was on the edge of the Arsenal box winning a free kick that could so easily have led to West Ham's opening goal.

But for the 18-year-old Swiss under-19 international, that sort of marauding forward run comes naturally.

"Yes, I play like this," said Daprela after completing his debut in claret and blue. "I like to go forward and I like to pass the ball short."

He certainly does. Playing for Switzerland under-19s earlier in the season, he beat five players before thumping the ball into the net, so Sunday's display was certainly no fluke.

That run at the Gunners defence was just one of three he attempted in the match, not bad for someone who didn't even know he was definitely playing until a couple of hours before the kick-off.

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"I didn't know until the team meeting before the match," revealed the left back, who stepped in to fill the boots of Herita Ilunga who pulled his hamstring in the defeat at Tottenham last Monday.

"I had some sort of feeling that I may play because Herita was injured, but the manager didn't actually tell me until today. It was very nice to play against a team like Arsenal and I think the whole team put in a good performance.

"It was a great pity that we lost, but I am very happy to have played the match."

So what about those marauding forward runs? "I made two or three runs and that is okay for me for the first time," said the former Grasshoppers Zurich defender.

"The first time I wanted to pass, but for the second one I wanted to shoot, but I was not so sure about it."

Getting forward is only a part of the game that the young Swiss brings to the table. He is also tough in the tackle, earning a debut yellow card after going in too hard on Jack Wilshere, while at the death, he was in the right place at the right time to clear off the line as Arsenal looked for a third goal.

"I think I play okay," he said modestly. "I can play better, but the other players were helping me a lot and I just tried to play my normal game, so it was okay."

West Ham certainly didn't look lacking in defence with Daprela in the side and though his match was by no means a perfect one - he played Aaron Ramsey onside for Arsenal's equaliser - it will certainly have been a debut that heartened manager Gianfranco Zola.

The form of Ilunga has been somewhat sketchy this season. The Congo international has not made the same impact this campaign as he did last season when both in attack and defence he looked an able replacement for the departed George McCartney.

Injuries have meant setbacks this season, but if he is not careful, Daprela may well jump above him in the pecking order.

For the moment though, the defender is just unhappy that his team didn't get anything from Sunday's FA Cup showdown.

"I thought we were going to hold on, but then they scored and I was thinking at 1-1 - oh s***!" he exclaimed.

"We played so good and then we let in two stupid goals, but that happens."

It certainly does, especially to West Ham this season, but with the likes of Daprela battling to earn a place in the starting line-up, perhaps the future of the club is not as gloomy as some people are painting it.

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