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Blog: Bilic has scapegoated Antonio

By Max Willow

bilicantoSuffice to say that we are all very disappointed by the outcome of last Saturday’s game against Crystal Palace.

Once again, Slaven Bilic made numerous tactical errors in this game, but I don’t wish to harp on those problems in this blog.

Most fans will remember the two outstanding goals, scored by Chicharito and Ayew. However, much attention has been centred on Palace’s last gasp goal.

Furthermore, most fans and pundits have been quick to place the blame on Antonio’s defensive error, which ultimately allowed Zaha to score a goal which could have been easily avoided. Withn hours, the media was awash with an apparent witch hunt directed against Michail Antonio with Bilic the main instigator.

But let’s look closer to decide the real villain of the piece.. For the best part of the week leading up to the game, Bilic had publicly expressed his own concern on Antonio’s fitness. He was even more specific, saying any decision on Antonio’s participation, would come down to the match-day itself.

In a situation where there is so much uncertainty concerning a player’s ability to play, sound thinking suggests that a conservative approach should be taken, unless the circumstances are so vital (such as an FA Cup Final or a place in the top 6 of the EPL etc.) it warrants the gamble.

Even prior to Antonio’s 62nd minute entry into the game, it was clear from the side lines (from his inhibited running and facial demeanour), that all was not well-the man was clearly still in considerable pain from his recent rib injuries.

As soon as he took his place on the field, those concerns became blatantly obvious; he was unable to sprint or accelerate, and even found problems in using his upper-body strength to win one-on-one encounters.

So should Bilic have played Antonio in the first place- NO! He had the option of inducting three ‘in-form’ U-23 players into the first team squad, who could have played in the right wing back or right back position; Nathan Holland, Sead Haksabanovic, or Martin Samuelsen, (who could have actually improved the state of the game when Pablo Zabaleta was substituted).

Rather than admitting his own role in a game which made no-one particularly happy, Bilic took the cowardly approach in finding a scapegoat for a mistake made by a player who normally gives 100 per cent to his club and team-mates.

If Bilic had any comments to make, he should have done it in private, rather than going public and inciting the disappointment that we were all feeling. All of a sudden, our fan-base turned on Antonio.  

Were these the actions of a man who is supposedly characterized for his kindness, decency, and sincerity? Hardly…

If Bilic has an ounce of insight for this disgusting, insulting outburst on an injured player, then he should act quickly and ask for Antonio’s forgiveness. Really Slav, not good enough for an EPL manager!!

The views expressed here are those of the individual blogger and are not necessarily shared by ClaretandHugh

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About Hugh5outhon1895

Hugh Southon is a lifelong Iron and the founding editor of ClaretandHugh. He is a national newspaper journalist of many years experience and was Bobby Moore's 'ghost' writer during the great man's lifetime. He describes ClaretandHugh as "the Hammers daily newspaper!" Follow on Twitter @hughsouthon

27 comments on “Blog: Bilic has scapegoated Antonio

  1. We all love Antonio but I’m sorry you cannot defend the indefensible…..Antonio is a fantastic strong quick skilful player but and I have thought this with decisions that he has made in previous games his decision making leaves a lot to be desired and that is being polite!…..He let the team down with his decision which as Joe Hart rightly said was unprofessional…. … Antonio needs to learn from his error and quickly….his team mates and the manager will pick him up from this with honest conversations on the training pitch but please do not try to make excuses for him .

    • Hi Magnum,
      So by not criticizing Bilic for selecting Antonio in the first place, who are you defending, mate!
      I am in no way defending Antonio; I have seen him make a lot of mistakes, especially when he was played as a right-back; I freely admit that he is not comfortable as a defender, but who was the ‘dick-head’ who forced him to play in such a ridiculous position.
      Sorry, I am usually flexible on such matters, but not this one.
      Bilic’s behavior was inexcusable;please stop blaming Antonio!!

  2. As my earlier post has been deleted for whatever reason, I will re-iterate what I said in summary here:
    ‘ the real villain of the piece ‘ was of course Agbonna, who turned a winning situation into a situation of desperate defensive action. If he had not have given away a totally needless penalty, we would not have given up 2 points. We were increaingly in control of this game.
    By the way Bilic ( who I don’t support any more ) was totally correct with his team selection, apart from Ogbonna who is a liability evry time he appears in our defence. He has got worse with each season he plays and should only be on the bench. Rice should have started the game, and should start the next game in his place. Ogbonna should be sold asap. I hope it’s as clear as my deleted post.

    • So who scored the winning goal against Spurs in the Carabao Cup; Ogbonna played for nearly an entire season, in considerable pain, with out a single complaint.
      The issue concerning Rice (and many of the fine U-23’s) is another subject.

  3. I’m no Bilic fan Max, quite the opposite in fact, but here you are very wide of the mark fella. The only thing Bilic got wrong was not calling out Ogbanna too. We make far too many individual errors and up until now Bilic has covered for them. Now it’s high time he raised the accountability stakes and said so when so called top class players make schoolboy mistakes, as both did on Saturday. Both were frankly unforgivable. And his injury caused him to give away possession in their corner? You’re having a chuckle.
    And as for seeking an apology from Antonio, the conversation should go something like – “Ants, let me formally apologise for not calling out Ogbanna alongside you mate, because together you cost us a vital three points. You’re a pair of clowns and I’ve stopped you both a weeks wages. Don’t ever do that again”

    • Jimbo,
      Bilic was criticizing Antonio in a fool’s court where Antonio had no means of defense.
      You are entitled to have a shot at me, but at the end of the day, someone has to stand up for what was blatantly wrong.
      I assume you have heard of Emile Zola and the Dreyfuss affair?
      In addition, speaking about accountability, who is accountable for the bloody mess that we are presently in-wasn’t Ogbonna and/or Antonio mate,or even the Dildo brothers, who, I feel, have been far too patient with this joker.
      More to life than football mate (although I sometimes forget that myself, LOL). Bilic can always fall back on a career in the law, but football is Antonio’s only real means of making a decent living!

      • Chief inspector Dreyfuss 😂😂
        Maybe he can get rid of cluseau,s cousin !! Bilic!! 😂😂

  4. I would just like to agree with the sentiments of this article completely. I know that Antonio gave the ball away for the last goal but I am prepared to put that down as a ‘brain fart’ from an otherwise excellent footballer and professional footballer. The problems with selection, strategy and complete lack of faith in younger players in favour of journeyman ‘experienced’ players persist.

  5. Posters are right about Ogbonna. I still wonder why Byram wasn’t on the bench
    Ant made a mistake wqs daft but he prob shoukdnt been onn he hasnt looked fit passed frw games. I think he was tryiny to cross to Manu but he shoukdnt have but besides a couple the whole team didn’t show up.
    Of horrible Pen & now we are top w 4 Pens in PL.

    Tho we should have finished the game of we had a couple of counters we didnt press we welcomed the attack. We obviously don’t have the players to keep a lead whether traininy tactics of skill so we should be trying to put in more goals

  6. Ogbonna being in the team – Bilic’s responsibility
    Ogbonna giving away ridiculous penalty – his responsibility
    Antonio being on the pitch when clearly not fit – his and Bilic’s responsibility
    Antonio’s decision to cross – his responsibility

    Bottom line is, these guys are not only professionals but they are adults and responsible for their own decisions and are accountable for them.

    I like Antonio but his performance levels recently have been abysmal. He escaped a lot of criticism for what was a dire performance against Brighton in which we saw a lot of the headless running, headless crossing and hoofing into the box we saw during his early days. Antonio has not been playing well recently and his head doesn’t appear to be in the game.

    How Rice is not in the side ahead of Ogbonna I don’t know.

    The Spurs result changed nothing, Bilic should still be sacked.

    I saw the Palace game, we did not deserve all 3 points. Palace had 19 shots with 9 on target. We had 6 and scored from our only 2 on target. but for Hart and the woodwork, Palace would have scored 5 or 6?on another day. This is normal for us under the guide of Bilic, we give teams far too many goal scoring opportunities week in week out

  7. Sorry but you’re all talking rubbish. I agree with the article, as a manager if you know a player is injured and you still play him then you are liable not the player. Calling him out afterwards was cowardly.

  8. If Antonio feels so guilty about what he did he doesn’t make the same mistake again all well and good. The players should know well enough with only a few seconds to go you hold onto the ball, make them foul you don’t put the ball at risk by passing it, most schoolboys know that much let alone PL footballers, game management which they should be coaching and practising anyway, we all know his coaching isn’t good enough now, the alarm bells were all there from the first few matches where we were not able to defend, the fact he needs three centre backs to do the work of two show that the midfield aren’t providing an effective shield most of the time and he also has his wingbacks so advanced they should be called wingforwards because they do very little going backwards.

  9. Dan – because you see it differently, doesn’t mean we are talking rubbish. Bilic has let a number of individual mistakes go this season, and last, without calling anyone out. Now it’s time he did. It’s not cowardice, it’s accountability. And I’m in no way sticking up for Bilic here, just saying there is a lot to hammer him for, just not for this!

    • Jimbo-clearly you have no idea about Bilic’s continual screaming/hissy fits that most of you are not privy about.
      I don’t care what you say, but the truth of the matter, was that Bilic made a public scapegoat out of Antonio-wrong time, and wrong forum.
      I will go ‘blue in the face’ in continuing to stand up for Antonio, so let’s leave it-Antonio doesn’t deserve a manager like Bilic, end of story. To say that “there is a lot of hammer in him’ is a total crock of s-it.

    • Sorry Jimbo-it seems that Bilic is not wiling to accept his own accountability-one bloody failure after another-wrong formations, lack of tactics, strategy, poor player selection and positional placement. Sound like you are a Bilic apologist, and please don’t start having a go at me;if you have more than 2 neurons in synaptic array, stay well away from things you don’t understand, please.

      • Max – its called debate and having a difference of opinion. So do not personalise it or attempt to play your intellectual joker fella because it’s only you who then looks silly.
        You and others have a view that Bilic was out of order in calling out Ants, and that’s fine. I respect that. But others have the opposite view, that it’s about time these errors were highlighted and addressed in this way. I respect your opinion, I just don’t happen to agree with it.

        And do not suggest I’m a Bilic apologist. Had you taken the time to read my posts in their entirety, you would have clearly seen I want him gone, and the sooner the better.

        At least here we agree!

        • I think you are right Jimbo, sometimes people have to be called out, he has been avoiding doing it for over 2 years if his patience has snapped it’s about time, lets face it he knows his job is on the line and we snatch defeat(or the loss of two points) from the jaws of victory, must have felt like another nail in the coffin for him. I feel sorry that every time he has to go to the press they are hammering him, no pun intended, he has had his entire tenure to iron out (no pun intended again) these faults in our defensive approach but the players also have to accept responsibility and in this case both Ogbonna and Antonio for their retrospective decision making brought pressure on the team. When you have a team and down and almost out you keep your foot down, you cut off all avenues they might have to get back int the game, we have been unable under Bilic to do that in all but a handful of games and in most of them Payet keeping posession was usually a key factor.

          • ‘ When you have a team and down and almost out you keep your foot down, you cut off all avenues they might have to get back int the game, ‘

            here here couldn’t have put it better.

  10. Difference of opinion. If I made a player play knowing he was injured, I would hold myself responsible for putting them in. Its called leading from the front.

  11. He (bilic ) should have kept it in house with Antonio ! Ant made a mistake , yes it was a lazy painfully executed poke !!! He was clearly injured , I’ve had bruised , and cracked ribs and playing football with an injury like that is braindead , ant should have called in sick and bilic made a poor decision by including him in the squad , it take weeks for a rib injury to heal, pain killers do not work , its hard enough getting a deep breath let alone run ?
    Let’s not forget the ball had to travel the whole length of the pitch ? In seconds the ball was in the back of the net ? The team selection was completely wrong and I questioned the ability of the midfield to stop zaha and Townsend and cabaye (motm )and the pace they had on offer ! It was like a knife through butter , they could have had 6 goals ? Point proven IMO ! Its bilic at his best ! Clueless ffs we were defensively rubbish again ! Hence the goals being conceded ! Another fact !!! We can all have our opinions for sure but bilic and his staff must be outed asap ! !! The record has been stuck for 20 months ish , time for a new unscratched piece of vinyl with a different artist and tune ,
    I’m on you’re side today max , chill mate , everyone is throwing rocks because there’s far to much frustration in everyone , me included ! I’ve been wearing a beard for weeks now 😂
    The board need to get their arry,s in gear before it all turns on them !!! 😉

    • I agree Antono shouldn’t have been on the pitch Laz but he would have known better than anyone that the whistle must have been about to be blown, 7 minutes of injury time must have seemed like an eternity, I hope this incident turns out to be a blessing in disguise and the whole team have a proper clear out of all their grievances including towards the manager and or coaching staff and we see the result against Liverpool, we need some real fighting spirit now, Liverpool most likely will test our dodgy defending more than Palace did and everyone will have to stand up to that.

  12. The ball still travelled the length of the pitch ! Naieve thinking on ants behalf ! Yes, but then there was 10 more players on the pitch to try and defend it ! Wrong team selection , wrong tactics, and definitely as what we have been witnessing this is all down to bilic and his inability to get the best out of his players , Antonio seems broken to what he was doing in his first season and some of last year ! He isn’t the only player under par is he , kouyate is way off form , add a few more to that list present and just departed , I do not think they want to play for him , I also don’t believe its all bilic ! Its his oppo jerkovic that has a big say in things and the pair of them together have proved they cannot man manage , tactically or otherwise !
    Not all poor passing into the box on the park at the opponents end end in goals against !! And Antonio’s shouldn’t have either. If that’s the case every time a player makes a mistake then its a goal ?? So I don’t think its his fault its the teams inability to defend that’s cost us , as it has been for far to long now, goals come from skill , luck,mistakes in and around the box ish and poor defending , which one was Antonio’s associated to ?
    Its a shambles !! Defiantly not a poor pass , should have drew the foul ,yes ! But he chose to cross instead ! What if we scored from it ?? He’s a hero lol!! Its a team game and this team is disjointed , antonio ,s fault for the goal ! Not for me , but that’s my opinion , others have theirs
    Its bilic spouting excuses and I hope he’s feeling shyte , cos that’s how I feel with him and his staff ! Get em out and quick !!!

    • We all would have cheered Laz if we scored but it still would have been the wrong play, we didn’t need another goal, there were seconds left we just had to keep possession and stop the other team scoring, by doing one we would have avoided the other. If I was DS I wouldn’t be sacking Bilic after the last two games, our performances have been for the most part better when we have driven the matches, the mistake Bilic and not only he but generally most West Ham managers make is that they think we can sit back when we have a two goal lead or even a one goal lead in Allardyce’s time, we need to play aggressive offence pressing higher up the field and that mindset shouldn’t change whether we are 2 nil up or 2 nil down, if the team press as a unit like they did against the Spuds we are a match for anyone, if we lose the ball everybody should be racing to get behind it, likewise if we win the ball everybody should be racing into position to counter attack, when Bilic joined I think it was after the Arsenal match he said we are parking the bus but with the handbrake off, now the handbrake is quite often off but the bus rarely returns the station.

  13. Laz, we didn’t score from Antonios cross, they bloody well did! And if we had, no additional points fella! so it never should have gone into the box.
    Agree with everything else you say about tactics, selection and lack of direction from Bilic. Ideally we would have stopped them going the length of the pitch but they should not have had the opportunity in the first place. Ball should have stayed in their corner and Antonio should have fallen over the second he was breathed upon.
    I rate Antonio, as on his day he borders on unplayable, but Saturday he messed up, as did Ogbanna, and both should have known better. Carroll passing to the spuds who score, Obiang not staying tight to Murray for Brightons first and Zabs penalty at Southampton, endless individual errors. Yes Bilic has to go, but these pros have to do the basics right and fess up when they don’t.

  14. Disagree lads !! The team didnt defend ! Regardless of antonio !
    Nobody is disputing his poor choice of play !! But I’ll keep saying the same thing and that is it travelled the full length of the pitch because we allowed it , as we did the whole second half !
    Atrocious defending ! Even worse in m/f And poor finishing and bad luck stopped them humiliating us !!
    They have scored 2 goals all season !! They should have had 6+ . I can’t think of another team in this division that would have conceded a goal in similar circumstances !! Other than palace ! Lol. We make shyte look like Brazil on steroids ! I’m done on this one no body will change my view , each to his own chaps 😉

  15. “this disgusting, insulting outburst ”

    All the post-match videos I’ve seen have had Bilic speaking quite quietly and calmly using words such as “naive” and “disappointing”. Is this the “disgusting, insulting outburst” of which you write? Or have I missed something more inflammatory?

    You also seem to be suggesting that it was Bilic’s words that were the catalyst for our fan-base turning on Antonio, with the implication that, had he said nothing, there would not have been any opprobrium launched in Antonio’s direction. I can assure you that I was calling poor Mikhail all the names under the sun as soon as he lazily ‘passed’ the ball to the Palace defence in the last minute – I certainly didn’t need to wait for Bilic’s post-match interview to give me the go-ahead to think badly of his actions!

    Bilic certainly shouldn’t have had Antonio on the bench if he wasn’t match fit and while I can understand putting on a player who could exploit a break given how much pressure Palace were trying to apply, it clearly didn’t work out that way – not least because the rest of the team seemed to have lost all interest in getting a third goal as soon as the Palace penalty went in.

    Billic deserves a fair bit of flak for many of his decisions, but admitting that Antonio didn’t make the best of choices during the last minute of the game must be really low down on the list of any reasonably minded fan.

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