Zola predicts tough times for 'big four'

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The Independent Online

Gianfranco Zola believes the 'big four' in the Barclays Premier League will find it increasingly harder to have it all their own way after West Ham became the latest team to take a point off Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea have now dropped 14 points at home this season while Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal have all stuttered against lesser opposition on their own soil.

Zola, who celebrated an emotional return to Stamford Bridge with a well-earned point, insists better organisation among the lower-profile teams is having an effect on the big four's supremacy.

"I don't think it is only at Chelsea," said Zola. "It seems to me Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United are all dropping points and they all play in the Champions League.

"I would also say the smaller teams are getting more organised and playing more tactically. This is making it more difficult for the big teams to beat them.

"This is a very competitive championship and the competition is making everybody else better, including the smaller teams and that is certainly another reason."

West Ham - like Newcastle, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, Newcastle and Tottenham before them - certainly had Chelsea figured out at Stamford Bridge.

Craig Bellamy put them ahead in the 33rd minute with a fine effort and Chelsea had to rely on a rescue act from top-scorer Nicolas Anelka five minutes after the re-start.

He scored his 16th goal of the season and his 100th in the Premier League to earn Chelsea a draw they hardly deserved.

West Ham could have sneaked all three points at the death but Petr Cech made a superb save to deny Carlton Cole a winner.

Former Chelsea midfielder Scott Parker was justifiably named 'Man of the Match' and insists West Ham demonstrated the kind of unity needed to propel them up the table.

"The manager was really pleased," said Parker. "Everyone really put in a shift - we can all be proud.

"I think it was clear that we have spirit. We have something there that you need and, with the league being so tight - that two good wins move you up or two bad results put you in trouble - the spirit and determination is something you need and we definitely have that."

Parker also singled out striker Bellamy, among others, whose tireless running was finally rewarded with the opening goal of the game.

"Craig has done ever so well," said Parker. "He's always a threat but has not got the goals to go with that of late, but his performances have shown what he is capable of.

"Carlton Cole had a chance at the end and put in a good shift as well, so there's no reason why they can't go on again from this and push on.

"Chelsea like to play balls that can give you problems, but they changed their game after putting Didier Drogba on and were a bit more direct in their play and mixed it up. They are a good side, but we dealt with it all well,"

Parker is now looking ahead to a busy Christmas period with renewed optimism. The Hammers have home games against Aston Villa and Stoke either side of a Boxing Day trip to Portsmouth.

And Parker added: "We want to push on again, we have had two away games now against two teams from the top four and in those games we have shown we have matched and played better at times than them.

"Hopefully we can take that into the next few games."

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