Give us a break’ Mexican is all in

WHEN Guillermo Franco opted to try his luck in the Premier League rather than signing for Argentinian giants Estudiantes, he could not have envisaged that it would be such hard work, writes DAVE EVANS. The Mexican international, who turned 33 in November,

WHEN Guillermo Franco opted to try his luck in the Premier League rather than signing for Argentinian giants Estudiantes, he could not have envisaged that it would be such hard work, writes DAVE EVANS.

The Mexican international, who turned 33 in November, has been holding the beleaguered West Ham forward line together almost single-handed in the last few weeks, and it is beginning to take its toll.

"I feel very tired and I feel down because we lost, but it's important that we retain a positive feeling for the future," said Franco after Monday's dismal showing against Spurs at White Hart Lane as the Hammers lost 2-0.

The Mexican found himself constantly isolated up front as Alessandro Diamanti, Luis Jimenez and Jack Collison failed to provide the support that is so vital when you are playing just one player up front.

Manager Gianfranco Zola is certainly aware of the problem. "In the first half he was isolated," admitted the West Ham boss. "I know he needs a bit more help and we need to adjust a few things, but trust me, something is improving and we are going to be much better."

Franco has lost both Carlton Cole and Zavon Hines as his striking partners due to injury and Zola seems reluctant to try youngster Frank Nouble alongside the Mexican.

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"I was thinking of playing Nouble today," said Zola. "In training sessions he is doing better, but when he is on the pitch that will tell me if he is ready.

"He was 50/50 to come on today. It was between him and Junior Stanislas, but I opted for Junior because he has more experience than Frank."

Zola will have to come up with something different against Arsenal as Franco picked up his fifth booking of the season at Tottenham and will now sit out the FA Cup tie with the Gunners on Sunday through suspension.

For the Mexican, it will be the perfect opportunity to rest his aching bones, something he feels he should be doing anyway, courtesy of a winter break from football.

"We have had two games in 48 hours and it is crazy," said Franco. "Only in England do you play twice in such a short space of time.

"I have never done it before in my career, not in Argentina, Mexico or Spain.

"It's very difficult for everyone and for us to play a very important match and lose those two players."

The loss of Scott Parker after just 12 minutes on Monday against Spurs meant more responsibility was placed on the shoulders of Valon Behrami, who has just returned to the side after injury.

The 24-year-old played alongside Radoslav Kovac in the centre of midfield and certainly found the going tough.

"I'm a bit up and down at the moment," admitted the Serbian-born Swiss international. "I feel okay, my knee is okay, but I need to play a few games in a row."

Behrami certainly looked sharp, but both he and Kovac found themselves outmuscled by the Tottenham midfield too often.

"Today was difficult," he admitted. "We lost two players and it was hard to find a solution. We need our important players back and fit, which is the most important thing for us."

At the moment though things are getting worse rather than better. Parker and Herita Ilunga, as well as Mark Noble on Boxing Day have been added to the injury list, and with Franco suspended on Sunday, it is looking like a bleak start to the New Year.

"We don't have too many players and we have some injuries, so I will take care of myself over the New Year and will be back to help the team in 2010," said Franco.

It looks like they will need plenty of that help, but then so will Franco if West Ham are to start banging in the goals.

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