Gianfranco Zola facing up to the biggest test of career

clarke-zolaFootball FanCast columnist Richard Marsh thinks that West Ham are in serious trouble and need to turn it around, and fast.

Nearing the halfway point of the season and it’s a time when the excuse “there’s a long way to go”, begins to wear thin.

Take note Mr. G. Zola of West Ham United, I watched the hammers get nailed by Bolton Wanderers on Tuesday night, and if you didn’t know it already, the London club are in serious trouble.

I watched and for the first time saw why they are where they are. They were awful, a side which played as if they had just met each other. Scott Parker played his heart out, only to get a muddy backside and a long, quiet, journey home. Parker did everything he could to help the hammers, and if it wasn’t for him, then West Ham could literally have fallen apart. He could well be gone come the end of January, and God help the Hammers if he has.

Only Danny Gabbidon looked remotely interest in defence, Ilunga, Tomkins and Faubert had a nightmare, careless marking, reckless challenges, failing to find their midfield men, they were ran ragged by Davies, Lee and Klasnic. You wondered if you were watching two premiership sides out there.

Bolton got three easy goals, the first, a simple through ball by Klasnic found an unmarked Chung-Yong-Lee, who slotted home past Green. West Ham didn’t have a clue where Lee was, had gone, or was going.

Then Green did his England hopes the power of evil  by dropping a simple header from Cohen, Green then lost out to Klasnic in the scrap who scored Wanderers second, and finally, with just a couple of minutes remaining, Gary Cahill found it all too easy to rise above two Hammers defenders to score his 5th goal of the season.

Only when Bolton went one nil up, and got a tad complacent, did West Ham get any luck, good work down the flank by Franco, who found Collison to set up Diamante for a simple shot on goal to make it one all. But as we know, West Ham fell apart.

Zola has a lot of work to do, yes he can look to the injuries, to Ashton, to Cole, to Keiron Dyer who made his first start of the season on Tuesday and who looked lively for the ten minutes before he went off injured. Again.

Zola must think hard, and train hard, get the team to gel, to communicate, to understand how each other likes to play the game, it is a big task, and if he fails, the price surely, will be his job.

But the team has no unity, they don’t know each other from Adam. Simple 5 yard passes were being made to look like rocket science, no communication, no understanding. Scott Parker is their one hope until Cole comes back, and who’s to say both of them won’t be sold to raise funds?

West Ham have been here before, back in 2002-3 when they were relegated with the highest ever points total for a relegated side, and this season is heading in a very similar direction.

Yes there is a takeover bid from the former Birmingham City owners Gold and Sullivan, but with massive debts to clear, how much would they be able to put into the transfer kitty?

With the clubs finances still in the air, Zola’s main option in January could well be loan signings, a bid for Brazilian forward Adriano was rejected, but at least they are looking in the right direction, Zola is a charmer, and a former brilliant, exquisite striker, who has the skills to bring quality forwards to Upton Park, and while he’s at it, a couple of defenders too.

The next 6 weeks are crunch time, games against Portsmouth, Wolves, and Portsmouth again are games the Hammers must get at least 6 points from, if not 9. The other games in this period, are at home to Chelsea, away at Spurs, and away at Villa, any points here are a bonus with Villa and Spurs playing like they are right now.

So the two Pompey games and the Wolves fixture are so incredibly vital to West Ham’s survival.

The minimum West Ham can get here to ensure they have a chance, is 6 points, as with rumours for bids for Cole and Parker growing, no matter who Zola brings in during January, West Ham may have a weaker squad than before the transfer window opened.

This will be the greatest test Zola may have faced in his entire career, not just his managerial years.