Zola set to keep faith with misfiring Di Michele
Gianfranco Zola will keep faith with shot-shy striker David Di Michele – despite the Italian's horror-show display against Liverpool
By JONATHAN CLEGG
Gianfranco Zola will keep faith with shot-shy striker David Di Michele - despite the Italian's horror-show display against Liverpool.
On-loan hitman Di Michele, 33, endured a miserable outing against the Reds and missed a first-half sitter that would have put the Hammers back in contention.
The former Italy international broke clear after Jamie Carragher inexplicably lost possession, but with just Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina to beat, Di Michele contrived to trip himself up - earning a yellow card for diving as he appealed for a penalty.
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The farcical incident summed up a forgettable match for the on-loan Torino forward, who has scored just four goals in 28 league matches for West Ham.
But Hammers boss Zola has defended Di Michele and backed the striker to come good during the team's final two matches of the Premier League season.
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He said: "For me, Di Michele remains a key player. I have said many times that maybe he doesn't score many goals, but he makes the team play very well.
"Especially since we lost Scott Parker, he is the one who is really helping the manoeuvres of the team.
"It's a pity because if he scored a few more goals he could be a top player because other than that he really makes the team play very well.
"He is an important player for us and I am 100 per cent sure of that. I will be supporting him all the time."
The West Ham manager added that Di Michele was unfortunate to be booked for diving following his shocking miss.
"I don't think he looked for it. The referee booked him, but he just lost his legs and lost his balance. I don't think it was simulation," Zola said.
Di Michele is likely to keep his place in the Hammers line-up for this weekend's trip to Everton and Zola revealed that the 33-year-old could return to Upton Park next season.
The Italian's loan deal is due to expire this summer but manager Zola admits the forward could join on a permanent basis.
He said: "We will focus on next year and then we will see what we can do. A lot depends on where we finish this season.