Angelo Ogbonna is loving life at West Ham, who have made an impressive start to the season and host Tottenham on Super Sunday with a chance to move into the Premier League’s top four if results go their way.
West Ham take on their fierce rivals this weekend sitting just a point behind Nuno Espirito Santo’s team in the table and with it all to play for at the London Stadium.
Ogbonna, though, was playing it all down when we met ahead of the clash.
“It is too early to talk about top four,” he said. “It has been a really good start right from pre-season. We have lost two games, but that is part of the process, although expectations are so high now.
“It has been a good, positive start, even in Europe we have played well and we have used all the squad, which is competitive, with everyone fighting for their places. And that is what you want.
“We are looking forward to it, but I do not want to put too much pressure on the game, because there is a lot of pressure already.
“But when we are really focussed and prepare in the right way, that is the best way. Everyone knows the importance of the game and we want the fans 100 per cent behind us.”
One of the main reasons for West Ham’s excellent beginning to the campaign is the new partnership at the heart of their defence between Ogbonna and recent arrival Kurt Zouma.
The France international has really caught the eye, having arrived from Chelsea for £30m in the summer, moving ahead of Craig Dawson and Issa Diop to be Ogbonna’s preferred partner at the back.
“Kurt is a very good man and guy,” Ogbonna said. “You see him at Chelsea and everyone knows his abilities. He has been around for many years, even in the Premier League and it is really good to have him here.
“He has brought a lot of experience and knowledge and it is really important as the club goes forward to have players with international experience.”
However, both central defenders will need to be at the very top of their game on Sunday to keep Spurs strikers Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son off the scoresheet for 90 minutes.
“We do not underestimate any game and this is the difference between this season and past ones – we do not underestimate any games,” Ogbonna said.
We do not underestimate any game and this is the difference between this season and past ones
“You saw the game against Brentford. People thought that because they had just come up from the Championship…. But no, even Chelsea struggled against them.
“This is the Premier League, it is a totally different level. Every year the level continues to go up and this season is really, really demanding, the expectation from everyone is so high – even Newcastle are struggling.
“And that means the level of the Premier League is very, very high.”
Keeping a clean sheet on Sunday would, of course, go a long way towards ensuring a positive result for West Ham, although surprisingly for a team managed by David Moyes, they have struggled for shutouts of late.
In fact, West Ham’s 1-0 win at Everton last time out was only the third time in their last 19 league matches, stretching back to March, they had prevented their opponents from scoring.
“As long as you do not concede, you have more chance to achieve something,” said Ogbonna. “If you look at the statistics, the team with the best defence wins the league.
“So as long as you do not concede, you have a chance to create and score and that is the focus the manager wants to have. And, as a defender, as long as we do not concede, we always have a chance to get results.”
However, while keeping clean sheets has been something of an issue for the Hammers, scoring goals from set-plays has most certainly not, as Ogbonna demonstrated at Goodison Park.
The Italy international, 33, scored his eighth top-flight goal for the club at Everton and all of them have come from set-pieces, including seven from corners like on Sunday.
Not only that, but since Moyes’ first game back in charge at West Ham in January 2020, the Hammers have scored more top-flight goals from set-play situations – 29 (excluding penalties) – than any other side.
“We are a really big threat from set-pieces,” Ogbonna added. “Even last season, we won many games from set-pieces and a lot of our players are good at heading the ball.
“But, not just that, we also have a lot of players who are good at delivering the ball, players like (Jarrod) Bowen, (Pablo) Fornals. And we are so committed at everything, and everything comes from hard work and discipline.
“We have not changed much as we have the same chances, but everything comes from discipline and even the work rate is totally different and very high.
“If you see the work Bowen and (Michail) Antonio do, it is amazing. And when we recover the ball, we counter-attack and from the back, it is amazing seeing people sprinting, going forward, helping and tracking back.
“Everything comes from the commitment, and everyone wants to achieve something for themselves and it is a good moment to be at West Ham.”
Watch West Ham vs Tottenham live on Sky Sports Premier League and Main Event from 1pm on Super Sunday; kick-off 2pm