Green: Settled side is behind defensive turnaround
Robert Green credits West Ham's defensive turnaround to Hammers boss Gianfranco Zola s decision to stick with a settled back four
By JONATHAN CLEGG
ROBERT GREEN credits West Ham's defensive turnaround to Hammers boss Gianfranco Zola's decision to stick with a settled back four.
Green helped the club record a third successive clean sheet at Liverpool on Monday night as the Hammers avoided defeat at Anfield for the first time in nine years.
West Ham have now gone more than 270 minutes without conceding a goal - a stunning statistic given their defensive struggles this year.
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Before last month's goalless draw against Portsmouth, the Hammers had failed to keep a clean sheet in 26 Premier League matches. Now they have three in a row.
West Ham have started with the same back four of Lucas Neill, Matthew Upson, James Collins and Herita Ilunga for the past five matches and Green believes that consistency in team selection has helped the club overcome their defensive frailties..
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He said: "You know what people can do and you know each other's qualities. It's the same with anything - partnerships up front work the same as partnerships at the back.
"Last season, if you look at it, there weren't many changes and our record spoke for itself.
"The season before that when we had the run towards the end, the back four didn't change and that's a recipe for success."
Green has also played a key role in West Ham's defensive resurgence. The 28-year-old was in top form at Anfield, pulling off fine saves from former team-mate Yossi Benayoun and Dirk Kuyt.
Green's display of brilliance ensured the Reds were unable to make the breakthrough that would have sent them three points clear at the top of the table, but the former Norwich goalkeeper says the entire team should take credit for keeping Liverpool at bay.
"To come to Anfield and do so well is obviously pleasing. The lads put everything in and ran themselves off the pitch at the end of the game," Green said. "It was a tremendous effort. When a clean sheet comes away from home in the Premier League, you take it."
Green's focus on shutting out the opposition hints at a change in approach from the free-flowing, attacking football that Zola promised when he arrived at Upton Park in September.
He believes the Italian is starting to realise that a more pragmatic gameplan is sometimes required if the Hammers are to preserve their Premier League status.
"I think we're learning as fast as he is that if you don't concede goals, you're not going to lose games," added Green.
"Some people say it would be nice to come to Anfield and play wonderful attacking football and lose 4-3 but we've come and dug in and put our bodies on the line. You can't ask for any more.