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Fitness holds key to Zola blueprint

PUBLISHED: 14:40 02 October 2008 | UPDATED: 13:40 05 October 2010

By JONATHAN CLEGG GIANFRANCO ZOLA has revealed that his vision of an entertaining, attacking West Ham side is beginning to take shape - because his players are finally getting in shape. The Hammers manager led the club to a second successive victory at Fu

By JONATHAN CLEGG

GIANFRANCO ZOLA has revealed that his vision of an entertaining, attacking West Ham side is beginning to take shape - because his players are finally getting in shape.

The Hammers manager led the club to a second successive victory at Fulham last weekend despite watching his side outplayed for long periods at Craven Cottage.

Yet Zola believes that the squad will start to produce the fluent football he has promised to deliver as their fitness levels continue to improve.

The Italian was critical of his team's physical condition when he arrived at Upton Park and immediately bolstered his backroom staff by recruiting Juventus fitness guru Antonio Pintus, who had previously worked with Zola at Chelsea.

The West Ham boss has since put his players through a series of gruelling training sessions and is convinced that individual performances will improve as their energy levels increase.

"I've been working with this team for two weeks," Zola said. "Obviously they know what kind of football I want to play and they have responded very well to my demands.

"[We have had] 15 days of training sessions and I've tried to work my way - I know it's very demanding physically and I'm sure they haven't yet got all the benefit of it.

"In a few weeks time it's going to be much better.

"Consider also games like this, winning away games like this will give them a lot of confidence in what we are doing, so they will be much better."

Zola singled out Mark Noble as one player whose overall fitness needs to improve - but has backed the midfielder to become a major force in the Premier League as his strength increases.

The homegrown Hammer caught the eye against Fulham and his lofted pass sent Matthew Etherington clear to add West Ham's crucial second goal before half-time.

With England coach Fabio Capello in attendance, Zola admitted that Under-21 international Noble could graduate to the full national set-up if he continues to make progress in the coming months.

He said: "It is very good for him [that the England manager was there on Saturday]. He's played well.

"Mark is still not at his best because he is one of the players that physically has struggled a little bit more than the others.

"But he's going to be much better in the next few games I can assure you.

"The players will have a couple of days off because they need it now - they are going to be working very hard next week and they need a rest.

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