West Ham United’s veteran full-back Pablo Zabaleta is feeling ambitious ahead of the club’s relegation run-in, as they aim to remain afloat in the Premier League for another season.
The Hammers have just three remaining matches to try to secure their safety and they head into them, 15th in the Top-Flight standings, just three points above the bottom three after Sunday afternoon’s heavy defeat to newly-crowned champions Manchester City.
David Moyes’ side will travel to the King Power Stadium to face Leicester City on Saturday in the first of them, before welcoming second-place Manchester United to London Stadium in a week’s time and four days later, Everton under former manager Sam Allardyce.
Speaking to West Ham’s Official Website WHUFC.com this week, here is what the 34-year-old had to say about his first relegation battle in England and his side’s chances of coming out of it alive over the trio of matches that remain of the 2017/2018 term.
“It’s still in our hands, we have to go for the three points in our next game, that’s it,” stated the 58-cap former Argentina International.
“Leicester lost against their last game against Palace, then we have Manchester United and Everton at home, so it’s in our hands.
“Yes, Sunday’s result wasn’t good, but we have to forget that game, be positive and move into the next game thinking we can get the three points.
“One more win, or four points, could be enough to be safe 100 percent. We cannot wait on Swansea, Southampton or Stoke to keep dropping points. We have to think about West Ham and getting three points.”
Zabaleta referenced the Hammers’ most recent league defeat to the champions the Blue Moon on Sunday afternoon at London Stadium, in which goals from Leroy Sane, Zabaleta’s own-goal, Gabriel Jesus and Fernandinho downed the Irons, who could only muster up an Aaron Cresswell consolation in reply.
It was an emotional occasion for the two-time Premier League winner as he faced the club that he left on a free transfer at the end of last season after nine years of loyal service and his thoughts on the game were clear in the same Interview.
“We knew Sunday was going to be a tough game, we were playing against the champions, the best team in the league. No excuses, they were miles better than us and now we have to move on to the next game.”
The Citizens have only lost twice in the league all the season and demolished most sides that they’ve come across in their way to securing the title in April, something that Zabaleta won twice in a City shirt.
The victory did move the Manchester club ever-closer to breaking numerous PL records, including the most points and the most goals in a single season, which is testament to their ability under Pep Guardiola.
They also now have a 1-13 aggregate score over the East London outfit at London Stadium, winning there 0-5 and 0-4 in the Emirates FA Cup and league respectively.
Despite this, many home supporters were unhappy with the “toothless, spineless and idle,” display that their team showed against the world-beaters, prompting angry reactions to the tactics and approach of manager Moyes.
The contest came as a contrary to the last time that Moyes’ men faced off with Guardiola’s, a spirited narrow 2-1 loss at the Etihad Stadium back in December and this fact roused most members of the Claret & Blue Army more, given the fact that the team are now fighting for their lives at the bottom of the table.
However, there was one positive to take away from Stratford for the home team and that was the return of last year’s Players’ Player of the Season Manuel Lanzini to the starting Xl.
Zabaleta’s fellow countryman had been sidelined since picking up an injury while on International duty with Jorge Sampaoli’s squad and the City legend was clearly delighted to have him back, for himself and the team at a pivotal stage of the season.
“Manuel is one of the most creative players in our team. He’s not had a good time in terms of injuries, but to have Manu back in the team is good news, so hopefully he can help us get some points in the next games.”
Much of Lanzini’s term so far has been ravaged by injuries as he has failed to live up to the standards he laid down during his first two seasons in East London, but the same can’t be said for Zabaleta.
The Argentine has not started just one PL game this campaign and that was Slaven Bilic’s last game in charge at London stadium, a 1-4 loss to Liverpool, which he missed through suspension due to the accumulation of yellow cards.
“Mr Consistent,” as he has been nicknamed, has impressed and perhaps even surprised fans, given his age, so much this season that he was voted third in the race to the Hammer of the Year Award, the club’s Player of the Season prize.
The accolade was picked up by Marko Arnautovic in the end at West Ham’s Player Awards brought to you by Betway and aid of the Academy last week, with youngster Declan Rice finishing runner-up.
However, this is no time to reflect on this season’s achievements for Moyes’ boys with the task of remaining afloat in the Top-Flight still not completed and West Ham the closest they’ve been to relegation at this stage of a season since they were last relegated, they can’t afford any more slip-ups this time around.