The Next Level
There has been a lot of talk about the club moving to the next level but not many have until now considered that the new level could be downwards into the Championship. Yet another abject performance and the surrender of a further three points from a winning position leaves West Ham just six points away from the last relegation place. By Wednesday the gap may well have narrowed to three. With Leicester and Palace on an upward trajectory the number of teams that we now need to outperform are becoming fewer. Although another three or four points may be enough for survival, current form makes it difficult to see where these might be coming from.
Another Fine Mess
Once again there was scant evidence of shape, tactics, organisation effort and fitness from the boys in claret and blue. Hull were not much better but they had spirit, work-rate and determination, particularly in the second half. Even with the injury situation the team selection was difficult to understand. A lack of pace throughout the team and little protection in midfield for the ageing centre back pairing was an open invitation to the opposition. One assumes that Bilic has had a falling out with Nordtveit who despite failing to impress seemed to be the obvious choice for a defensive midfield role, particularly if Noble was deemed not ready to return. Missing three weeks with a dead leg appears curious and suggests our treatment room is on a par with the training ground for effectiveness. Expect Manuel Lanzini to be ruled out for the season with a paper cut next.
Bits and Pieces Players
While other teams in the lower reaches of the Premier League rely on cohesion and hard work it feels like we expect to coast through games in the mistaken belief that we have better players who don’t really need to try too hard. The squad is being filled with an assortment of players of ordinary ability who fail to complement each other in any way. Feghouli is definitely not a Premier League footballer; he has no powers of anticipation and simply reacts should the ball come in his direction. Snodgrass is a luxury free-kick specialist who has now lost that spark of enthusiasm that he first arrived with. Ayew has managed to get in good scoring positions but makes little contribution in all-round play; whatever his best position is we have yet to find it. Randolph is not a Premier League Number 1. Even now we are being linked with even more players aged 30 and over which, if true, suggests a very worrying limited and short term view.
Can We Fix It?
There are different schools of thought as to where the blame lies for what has turned out to be a dreadful season. It is either the fault of the Board, the Stadium, the Manager, the Players or it is merely the West Ham way to be average, disappointing and under-performing. Of the above there is limited short term room for manoeuvre. The Boleyn has gone and, like it or not, the London Stadium is home for the foreseeable future. I can accept that moving to a new ground can dissipate home advantage but it doesn’t explain poor performance. The Board are the owners of the club and are going nowhere soon. The Daves have their faults but it is wrong to suggest that they have not backed their managers in the transfer market. At this stage of the season there is no quick fix to the playing staff and may, in fact, require several windows to shift out the latest collection of recently acquired dead wood. That leaves the choice of doing nothing (because it is fate) or replacing the manager.
Goodbye Slav (and thanks for some great results last season)
I think we can all agree that Slaven Bilic is a great bloke and has oodles of passion. He may even ‘get us’ whatever that means. I cannot, however, think of any footballing reasons why he should be kept on as manager. We have become a team that lacks a clear style of play or formation; that is short on tactics, fitness, pace and mobility; and that is stumbling from one disaster to another. There is no vision, plan or strategy to build for the future. A good manager makes the best of the resources that he has and Bilic has been unable to create a team unit that is greater than the sum of its parts. Past results unfortunately mean nothing as has been demonstrated by the situation at the resurgent Leicester. Even assuming we do manage to stay up with Bilic in charge then I can only see a repeat next season. The club needs a manager with ideas and with tactical and organisational excellence. This is not unfortunately Slaven Bilic. As much as I would have loved to see him succeed the wise decision now is to dispense with his services now rather than having a dead man walking until the end of the season.