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West Ham defender getting new lease of life in three-man back-line

PUBLISHED: 11:30 18 September 2017

West Ham United's Jose Fonte (right) jumps above West Bromwich Albion's Jonny Evans (centre) and West Bromwich Albion's Jay Rodriguez (left) in a battle for the ball during the Premier League match at The Hawthorns, West Bromwich.

West Ham United's Jose Fonte (right) jumps above West Bromwich Albion's Jonny Evans (centre) and West Bromwich Albion's Jay Rodriguez (left) in a battle for the ball during the Premier League match at The Hawthorns, West Bromwich.

PA Wire/PA Images

Hammers centre half Jose Fonte is beginning to show what he can do at last

West Ham United's Jose Fonte West Ham United's Jose Fonte

West Ham defender Jose Fonte said the team were left thinking about what might have been after the goalless stalemate at The Hawthorns on Saturday.

The former Southampton centre-back is enjoying his time in the Hammers new-look three-man defensive formation, and he feels consecutive clean sheets has a lot to do with the change in system.

“Last year we ended up having a good run with this system,” said Fonte. “It is working again for us. It gives us more security and confidence at the back to keep things stable and it is working.”

West Brom rarely troubled the defence and wing-backs Pablo Zabaleta and Aaron Cresswell both had plenty of chances to go forward.

West Ham United's Jose Fonte (left) and Huddersfield Town's Rajiv van La Parra battle for the ball during the Premier League match at the London Stadium. West Ham United's Jose Fonte (left) and Huddersfield Town's Rajiv van La Parra battle for the ball during the Premier League match at the London Stadium.

“The guys at the back like it, we live for the clean sheet,” smiled the Portugal international. “I think we have the players to play this system, with great wing-backs and players who can score goals at any time.

“We have so many solutions. Look at the bench, it is a strong bench.”

It is certainly working at one end, but they could not conjure up a goal and Fonte felt that was a lot to do with the tactics of the home side.

“We certainly felt frustrated in the dressing room, because if there was one team who really tried to get more than one point then it was us,” said the defender.

“West Brom made it very tough, they defended very, very deep and did not come out to play and when you come to these places you expect them to come out a bit more.

“They didn’t, they tried to play on our mistakes and get a counter-attack or a set-piece.

“We feel a little bit disappointed, because although we didn’t create too much, we did have three good chances to score,” said the 33-year-old.

Things have not gone too well for Fonte since his signing from Southampton in January. He admitted himself that he did not do himself justice last season and things looked little better this time round as he lost his place in the team.

But these last two matches seem to have freed him up to show what he can do.

“You can’t get too low when things don’t go your way and you can’t get too high when things go well,” he reflected.

“I have got my head down on the training ground and worked on things that perhaps I needed to improve. I worked on my fitness so I am always ready when the manager needs me.”

He has certainly looked the part in these last two games with the number four getting in crosses, getting into the box at set-pieces and even having a shot from range.

“Just give me the ball and if I am in a good position to get it into the box then I will,” he laughed. “First and foremost it is about defending, then if I have an opportunity to go forward, I will go with Pablo or Michail and try my best.”

There seems to be a new confidence in the West Ham defence and Fonte epitomises that mood. He keeps it simple and if there are mistakes there is an extra man to cover.

The defence seems to be sorted at the moment, now it is a case of improving at the other end and Fonte believes they have the players to do that, especially since the return of Andy Carroll.

“When he is fit, he gives us something different,” he said. “With Andy and ‘Chicharito’ it gives us plenty of options.

“The manager can play two up front and have the partnership or play three, it is open for debate.

“We have many options, a lot of competition in the squad which is good and healthy and I think now the results will start to come.”

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