Chelsea's greatest player is now West Ham's manager.
What does he bring to the table that Alan Curbishley could not? And what should he focus on?
Zola was the heart and soul of a Chelsea squad that saw success before the Abramovich era completely skewed the Premiership. Those days the playing field was more even. They were good enough to win the FA Cup and enter the CL. With his Chelsea experience in the pre- Abramovich days, he probably knows better what it takes for a smaller club like West Ham to move forward.
As a player he was known for his spectacular goals and his full throttle play. Part of his personality is a Keegan-esque ability to inspire which I think will ultimately overcome some of the reservations that Hammer fans might feel given their extensive rivalry with Chelsea. As an assistant to Pierluigi Casiraghi, he guided a successful Italian U-21 side. Which should prove to be a fillip for the youth talent that West Ham has at its disposal in Freddie Sears and Kyel Reid. The club has not been kind to its younger players and West Ham has a decidedly older look. This should be reversed under Zola.
West Ham's quandary is a less than agile defensive line and inconsistent performances. So far this season they polished of Blackburn after a woeful display against Man City where they looked at sixes and sevens. Zola needs to sort out the deadwood in defense and keep the attack from overworking itself, leaving enough in the tank for the long season. Ashton, Cole, and Bellamy have been on target but Ashton's fitness is fragile and Bellamy is usually a foul away from suspension.
I counsel patience. Zola will prove to be a good long term manager with a view to developing first team opportunities for the youth squad. Björgólfur Guðmundsson should give Zola a free hand with player transfers. Overall these are exciting times for Hammer fans.
Here is another Zola, Emile Zola advising Gianfranco: “The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.”