West Ham Captain Matthew Upson Intends to Make Top Player of Da Costa

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West Ham Captain Matthew Upson Intends to Make Top Player of Da Costa
Scott Heavey/Getty Images
Da Costa with West Ham coach Avram Grant

West Ham United defender Manuel Da Costa is young and dangerous.

In the Hammers’ recent league win over Stoke City, 24-year-old Da Costa scored a brilliant header from teammate Thomas Hitzlsperger’s expertly placed free kick.

It was the Portuguese international’s third goal in claret and blue.

Speaking with West Ham TV after the match, Hammers captain Matthew Upson praised da Costa’s goal, his ability and his potential.

“Da Costa had a very good game. He’s good in the air, got a great leap on him, scored a very good goal,” Upson said.

West Ham acquired the Portuguese defender from Italian Side Fiorentina in August of 2009.

Da Costa made his debut for the Irons in a League Cup defeat to Bolton on September 22, 2009. He scored his first goal for the side in a 3-3 tie to Hull City in November of the same year.

Da Costa has been featured intermittently in West Ham’s line up during the 2010-11 season; he's had seven league starts, one league appearance as a substitute and two League Cup starts. Despite this occasional use, he has two goals thus far for the season from his position in central defense.

During his interview with WHTV, Upson mentioned both the shortcomings and strengths of Da Costa.

Clive Rose/Getty Images
Upson (far right) with Obinna (26) Cole (9) and Tomkins (far left)

“If you gotta criticize him in anyway, you’d say, like experience wise, with his decision making, he could be a bit calmer,” Upson said.

However, Upson went on to state, “When you want someone in a game to go and attack a ball and get physical with someone, there’s not many better. Physically he’s one of the best players I’ve seen. If he just gets that bit of composure and calmness to him he could be a very good player.”

The development of Da Costa may prove instrumental in Avram Grant’s long-term plan for West Ham. The team has taken to playing a 4-3-3 or 3-4-3 formation with a combination Demba Ba, Carlton Cole, Freddy Piquionne, Victor Obinna and Robbie Keane up front, Parker, Hitzlsperger, Noble and Gary O’Neil in the midfield, Upson and Tomkins on central defense and Wayne Bridge and O’Neil on the wings, with Jacobsen adding to the defensive structure when called for.

The addition of Da Costa to such a line up adds three important factors—youth, physicality and attacking threat. Youth, well, that’s self-explanatory. All teams need young, developing talent to one day become the central figures of the squad as older, established players retire.

As for physicality, West Ham now has all the key components of an excellent attacking game. Where the squad sometimes lacks is strong, physically intimidating defense.

While Upson and Tomkins play well game in and game out, their supporting cast is only intermittently dependable. The development of Da Costa will give the Hammers a hard man option, someone to put out to play against physical, aggressive attackers like Drogba and Rooney.

Since the addition of Hitzlsperger and Keane, Grant has radically changed the formation of the squad, which now plays very aggressive, attacking football. Da Costa gives Grant an additional attacking option, a defender who can be used on set pieces to increase the Hammers’ scoring potential.

As an experienced EPL hand and captain of West Ham, Upson sees his own contributions to developing the Portuguese international into a top talent as integral.

When asked what his role in Da Costa’s development is, the England international replied, “To speak to him, to try to control him in that way, because he brings a lot of positives to the team. It’s just a case of putting that together in a controlled manner.”

Upson went on to reveal a top secret form of communication he uses with Da Costa, who speaks no English and understands little: eye contact and sign language. Ninja style!       

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