Adam Bate caught up with West Ham winger Matt Jarvis to discuss his World Cup ambitions, the signing of Stewart Downing, Sam Allardyce's love of statistics and how it felt to finally get that first Hammers assist...
By Adam Bate - Follow @GhostGoal
Last Updated: 20/08/13 2:38pm
Occasionally there are statistics that just resonate. Some are flattering, such as the one that saw the passing of Swansea midfielder Leon Britton favourably compared to Barcelona's Xavi. Others are curiosities such as the fact that it took Gareth Bale until his 25th Premier League game for Tottenham before he was on the winning side... And that after more than 40 hours of action, Matt Jarvis was still waiting for his first West Ham assist.
The likeable Hammers winger put in more crosses than any other Premier League player in 2012/13 and set up his fair share of opportunities. In fact, the 27-year-old created more than any other player not to have an assist to his name. But after a season spent plugging away on the left flank, Jarvis delivered on the opening day of the new season - providing the cut-back for Joe Cole to slam the ball home for the breakthrough goal against Cardiff on Saturday.
When the dreaded stat is mentioned his relief is palpable. "Yeah, exactly! It's was nice to get it," he admits. "Especially after being top of the chances created without getting one. That wasn't great reading but it's nice to be up and running this season already."
Jarvis didn't have a pre-season with West Ham last year, joining from Wolves for a then record £10million just before the window shut with the campaign already underway. This time he appears to be feeling the benefit of a summer with the squad, having produced a man of the match performance in a win over Hamburg last month and then impressing against the Bluebirds when the league season began.
"It's helped that we've had quite a few games as we wanted to get as match-fit as we possibly could ahead of the new season," he explains. "It's always nice during pre-season to get a few assists and feel like you're back in the swing of things. To hit the ground running on Saturday and get an assist was a nice little confidence-booster.
"I think the start that we had last year was the key. We got 14 points from our first eight games. It was the massive boost of confidence that we needed and I think we were around sixth to eighth in the table at that stage and that really motivates you. That really helped us last season."
Some would suggest Jarvis needed a good start himself. Having dealt with the pressures that came with his transfer fee last season, the signing of fellow England international winger Stewart Downing on the eve of the opening game might well threaten his spot in the team. It was Jarvis who made way for Downing at the weekend.
He bats away the issue of his place being under threat in predictable fashion. "It's another fantastic signing and it means competition for places, which is always healthy in a squad," says Jarvis. "It makes everyone play a bit better and that always helps the team. Hopefully we can play in the same team."
There is certainly some reason for optimism in that regard given the fact that both men can play on either flank. Sam Allardyce may appear a manager at home with the knockabout banter on the Goals on Sunday sofa but his love of the science of the sport is also well-documented. So it seems unlikely he is unaware of the fact that Downing is one of only two men to fire in more than 200 crosses since the 2010/11 season. Jarvis is that other man, having achieved the feat in each of the last three campaigns.
|200+ PL crosses from open play - last three seasons|
As such, it is easy to imagine Allardyce licking his not inconsiderable chops at the prospect of his wingers loading the box for the hulking figure of Andy Carroll with the canny Kevin Nolan latching onto the knockdowns. Big Sam will be seeing that chicken dance in his sleep.
"He's very much into his statistics," notes Jarvis. "We use all the analysts and all the statistics we have in order to work out how we are going to approach a game. For me personally, we look at whether I am going to cross the ball or whether I'm going to run at the defender and things like that.
"With players like Andy and Kev running into the box, if we can get as many crosses into the box as we can from good areas that are going to unsettle the defenders then it is always going to create chances."
Jarvis scored seven goals in his last 14 games for Wolves but followed up with just two in his debut season for the Hammers. That's an area he is keen to improve in the hope of forcing his way back into the England set-up - an ambition he is happy to bring up without prompting.
"My hope for the season is to play well and keep creating the chances for the team," he says. "I want to keep getting the assists and hopefully get a few goals myself. I'd like to get more than I got last season and maybe get nearer to the eight that I got in my last year with Wolves.
"If I can add more goals and keep the assists and crosses coming in then I'll be pleased. And hopefully if I can do that then I can put myself in the window for the England team." His voice tails off - almost tentative about the mere suggestion - but when the World Cup is mentioned he is animated once more.
"That would be nice! It's one of those things that you dream about when you're little. That is the ultimate aim and goal in your career. It was an absolute dream come true to get the call-up and to then actually play at Wembley in front of 85,000 fans was absolutely incredible.
"Just training with all these top-class players and being involved in and around the qualifiers was a great experience and when you get a taste of it you just want more. That is what I'll be working hard to do."