West Ham boss under pressure again? What a short-sighted view
PUBLISHED: 18:00 25 September 2017
PA Wire/PA Images
Hammers defeat against Spurs has the doubters and press back on the sacking bandwagon
You would think that West Ham were rock bottom and not scoring any goals if you looked at the screaming headlines in the press on Sunday.
‘Bilic under pressure again’, ‘Bilic in the firing line’, ‘Fans turn on West Ham boss’!
It makes a story and you can’t say that about Crystal Palace as they have just appointed a new manager.
So the big question is: how much was the West Ham boss at fault for Saturday’s 3-2 defeat to Tottenham?
It all seems to stem from his decision to replace the injured Michail Antonio with Andy Carroll, thus changing the system that had been so effective in the first half hour.
He could have brought on Andre Ayew or Diafra Sakho and kept everyone else in the same positions, but that would surely have been an affront to Carroll, who had done nothing wrong before being put on the bench.
Unfortunately it was Carroll’s wayward pass that cost the first goal and he was at fault for the second one too, but that is not about formations or moving Javier Hernandez.
We saw plenty of mistakes last season that cost goals; Manchester City a couple of times, Chelsea to name but two and it is to West Ham’s credit that they were able to hit back and give Tottenham a real fright.
Last season they would have lost that game by four or five, this was much better.
So what did Bilic say about that substitution?
“We wanted to stay with the same system,” he said. “We did have a couple of options, but we went for Andy and also ‘Chicharito’ had played a couple of games with the system and against Huddersfield, he did really well.”
To be fair, losing Antonio was the biggest blow, not the bringing on of Carroll. He has such pace and was causing loads of problems alongside Marko Arnautovic on the other flank, that it was West Ham who were on top in that first half hour.
Aside from the mistake that gave Spurs their first goal, Carroll did play an important role.
While Hernandez was hardly affected in his new role as he scored one and was denied twice by Hugo Lloris – hardly putting him on the sidelines.
Bilic is hampered by having to play five at the back, a system he may well abandon come Saturday against struggling Swansea City.
“It’s hard to have it both ways,” said the boss. “It’s hard when you play three at the back, to have all your offensive players on the pitch.”
In an ideal world, Carroll and Hernandez would be playing together in the starting line-up and the situation will be even more difficult when star man Manuel Lanzini returns to the fold.
These are nice decisions for the manager to make, so did he really deserve the sort of questioning that came his way after the game?
“No matter in what circumstances you lose, people will always talk about your position,” he said with a frustrated shake of the head.
“The only period of the game I was very disappointed and angry about was after we conceded the first goal.
“Suddenly, from being on top of the game, the second goal was more down to our sloppiness or giving up for five minutes, rather than their brilliant movement.”
You have to give some credit to Tottenham and the clinical finishing of Harry Kane, who certainly enjoys playing against the Hammers.
But West Ham were not far behind them and if a decision like the one they suffered in injury time at Southampton, had gone their way, then they could have had a penalty and a point.
“You win a game, you draw a game – you play quite well for some periods, but it will still be ‘Slaven’s in danger!” said the boss with a wry smile.
That sums it up pretty well. For the moment, the Croatian should be safe. It is not games against the likes of Spurs that will decide his fate.
It will be games like this Saturday’s against Swansea City.
Let’s see where West Ham are after the next three, very winnable league games.