Tony Cottee: “It has been a horrendous start and one I didn’t expect

Hammers legend Tony Cottee discusses all things West Ham in his exclusive column

It’s been a horrendous beginning to the campaign and one that I didn’t expect with the standard of players we have.

We have four England internationals at our disposal, while there are a host of others who also represent their countries, so something has to be wrong for us to be where we are in the table.

I’m not confident at all for the Stoke game after we have made such a bad start and it worries me that I don’t see where the inspiration is coming from.

I don’t see boss Avram Grant being able to motivate the players a huge amount and I think it will be down to the squad to do it themselves.


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Our poor results have not been helped by the fact that we have not had a settled back four this season and hopefully it is something that the boss will sort out sooner rather then later.

Look at Birmingham City as an example. They are unbeaten at home for a year and have had the same defence of Liam Ridgewell, Scott Dann, Roger Johnson and Steve Carr for the majority of that period.

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They have built up an understanding and the fact they start every week ensures they are settled and know their roles within the side.

Going to Stoke will be a huge test of character for the team and it is time to for the players to stand-up and be counted.

The Potters are in a way the modern day Wimbledon and when we took on the Crazy Gang, the great Hammers boss John Lyall always told us to compete and try to win the battle.

If you do that then after a while you can frustrate them, play your own game and then have a great chance of winning the match.

That’s the philosophy I believe we should have and I think we have the players to follow it through.

There is no doubt we are in a relegation battle after the start we have made, but it only takes a couple of good results to move us towards mid-table.

It’s a massive match because we are the only two clubs in the country without a point and we are already two wins away from leaving the bottom three.

If things were going well then I would expect us to play two up front, but needs must and I would not be surprised if we play a 4-5-1 formation, with Carlton Cole leading the line and Victor Obinna maybe playing on the wing.

There is the option of playing Freddie Piquionne, Cole and Obinna as a three up top and playing them at their own game. Making these sorts of decisions is where the manager really earns his money.

It was an encouraging performance against Chelsea, but like last season we struggled to create too many chances in the final third, because in my opinion we lack width.

We tend to play narrow and it limits our attacking options and on Saturday, the Blues flooded the middle. When we found our way at the edge of the area we ran out of ideas.

If you are Chelsea or Arsenal then you have that high caliber of player who is able to unlock defences, but for a team like ours I believe using width is vital.

It will pull opposition players out wide and create space in the area, increases our options and chances tenfold.

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