By Will Butcher
Slaven Bilic has declared himself delighted with on-loan striker Simone Zaza, despite a poor start to his West Ham career.
The Italy international has come under huge criticism from Hammers fans as he struggles to come to terms with the rigours of the Premier League.
Writing in his column on West Ham’s official website, Bilic disagreed with fans by stating that Zaza did everything but score against Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace last weekend during the East London outfit’s 1-0 win.
“He was fighting, he was defending,” Bilic said. “He was good on the ball, he kept the ball well, he linked up really well with Lanzini and Payet. You could see after the game that he was really happy and proud about the performance.
“I also told him the goals will come. It’s not all about goals of course but if he plays like that it helps the team a lot and of course they are one of the reasons why we wanted him.”
The Juventus forward, who is on loan until the end of the season from the Italian champions, has failed to score for his new side in six league and cup appearances.
However, the former Sassuolo and Sampdoria striker is expected to start again for Bilic’s side against Premier League strugglers Sunderland on Saturday.
The Hammers will be looking to pick up just their third Premier League win of the season against David Moyes’ side, which would move them on to 10 points and a potential 13th place if results go their way.