In the pressure cooker that has become the London Stadium, Slaven Bilic cuts a distressed figure. Try as he may, it is proving difficult for the former Croatia defender to get anything from his West Ham United players anymore.
The 3-0 reverse at home to Brighton could prove to be the final nail in the Bilic coffin. It’s also the 22nd time the Hammers have conceded three or more times in a game under Slaven Bilic. This is a damning indictment of his time there.
The Brighton result was seen by many, if not all of the West Ham faithful, as unacceptable, and the final straw in what has been a lamentable beginning to the season for the Irons. The club find themselves sitting in 16th position in the Premier League and hovering just above the drop zone. Should things fail to improve in the next game or two, the situation could potentially prove to be the end of Bilic at West Ham.
Even after looking at the sorry state of their league position, the, at times, egregious defensive displays, the lack of fire power up front – West Ham have scored just 8 goals in their 9 league fixtures this season – it is easy to possess a degree of sympathy with Bilic. He has been hung out to dry on occasions by his bosses at the club. None more so than this season, when after a poor start to the campaign owner David Sullivan publicly apportioned the blame on a failure to sign players on Bilic. In a statement released on the club’s website Sullivan spoke of how the Hammers had been close to signing William Carvalho, the Sporting midfielder and a player Bilic said he wanted, only for the deal to collapse. This led Sporting president Bruno de Carvalho to label Sullivan, and his co-owner David Gold, as the “dildo brothers” and deny claims they almost signed Carvalho.
Further cracks were beginning to appear in the relationship between owners and manager when Bilic, encouraged to react to the “dildo brothers” comment, instead of coming to the defence of his bosses, said “it made me laugh” and that he found it funny.
It was not the first occasion of which Sullivan and Gold had criticised Bilic over summer recruitment. Sullivan in particular had blamed Bilic over the failure to sign players such as Grzegorz Krychowiak and Renato Sanches, who signed for West Bromwich Albion and Swansea respectively. Bilic, unhappy with the decision of his bosses to go public instead of speaking to him privately, came out defending his corner, stating that “this is not exactly what happened with those two you mentioned” after being asked about Sullivan’s comments.
It is true that most of the sympathy afforded to Bilic will more than likely come from fans of a neutral persuasion. If you are a West Ham fan then it is what you see week in week out on the pitch that you form your judgements on. Whether you are in support of Bilic or not, ultimately football comes down to one thing – results. The common cliché dragged out for occasions such as these is that the sport we so admire is a results based business. Unfortunately for Bilic that is a fact.
Across last season, and this, West Ham have played a total of 57 games under Slaven Bilic. They have been victorious in only 19 of these. This is yet another statistic that further serves to condemn Bilic to what most expect to be his dismissal soon. It’s a poor record, put simply.
So who replaces the 49-year-old should his services be dispensed of? Could it be Carlo Ancelotti? Recently a free agent after being sacked by Bayern Munich, Ancelotti is thought to be taking time out before a return to management but could he be tempted to return to the English capital? What of Thomas Tuchel? He has previously been linked with the West Ham post and the former Borussia Dortmund head coach is currently out of a job after leaving the club in May of this year.
There also appears to be a race for the services of Burnley manager Sean Dyche. His achievements in Lancashire only strengthen his case of making another step on the managerial ladder. The former Watford manager would certainly get West Ham’s shaky defence restored to some degree of stability, and with players like Marco Arnautovic, Lanzini and Antonio, added to Javier Hernandez up front, counter attacking football, which Dyche has almost perfected at Burnley, would be conceivable at West Ham.
Or maybe even a return for Sam Allardyce? For much of the reasons Sean Dyche would be a good fit for the Hammers, Allardyce could also become a strong candidate for the position. He was often criticised for his style of play in his previous spell at the club but there’s no denying his ability to bring relative stability to a struggling club.
Whatever happens over the coming days at West Ham United, something needs to change. If Bilic is afforded more time then the players and board have to accept their share of the responsibility, which comes with the territory of carrying a football club up or down a division. Should he be sacked then it is of the utmost importance that the owners get the next appointment absolutely right and get the fans back on side in the process.
Read more from Lee Holdsworth on his blog, here.