CandH analysis: The big verdict on boss, board and team as the Hammers bid to avoid a winter of disconent


By Hugh Southon

West Ham are facing not only a winter of deep discontent should their present problems persist but one of growing confusion behind the scenes.

Unless Slaven Bilic can find some miracle cure for the team’s ills the issues we are seeing at present could escalate into a dangerous drama which cannot be easily sorted.

And to those who say this sort of blog has no place on a Hammers supporting website let me make something clear:  We love this club with a passion (that’s why we’re here) but we are not blind to issues at most levels in the club which are damaging us.

So here we go with an analysis we have never wanted to write:


BilicupWith a first season to die for it has become obvious that the Payet factor played a massive role. Indeed many times the manager repeated that he had built the team around him and that he made everybody around him play better. It shouldn’t have been that way as has now been shown and we haven’t come up with a solution which has filled the breach. Whether we like it or not his departure hurt us more than we are prepared to admit because whilst Manu Lanzini is on his way to becoming a great creative midfielder he’s not there yet.

Yes, the manager has had injuries to cope with – they all do – but in fairness he has never used them as an excuse. Far more to the point is that we still have no identifiable playing system switching from back four to back three and back again at the drop of a hat, playing individuals out of position and covering less ground during games than any other PL team according to OPTA stats. Slaven and his team must take the buck for that – simple!

We have seen Antonio used as a right back and central striker – does anybody remember that his best position is as a right sided midfielder – seemingly not! Andre Ayew at £20 million has been used here there and everywhere, Declan Rice was pushed into a role in front of the back line when he’s effectively a central defender. Chicharito has been played down the left, and Kouyate turned into a defender at times. Now look if you are gonna buy a £20 million player one would think you would know where to play him – same with the £16 million Mexican.

Then there comes the tactical approach to matches which saw us lose our bottle against Palace as soon as they got a penalty courtesy of a ludicrous Ogbonna challenge. It led to us defending as deep as it gets against a bottom of the table team. Just not on and it’s followed by the manager and players talking about failing to “hold on” when they should have been striding forward and scoring more goals against a seriously poor side.

Right now we have two ways of playing: defensively and very defensively and it’s led us to a point where it’s hardly an original thought to believe the manager’s time is up.


Gold sullivan BradyBoard knocking is always gonna be with us with many in the game generally reckoning there will always be around 30 per of the fan base kicking off against them. In times of trouble of course there’s a big increase as we are seeing now. Par for the course. I have one problem with our board apart from the move from the Boleyn – the recruitment policy which of course is key to everything that happens on the pitch. I may be wrong but I know of no other club where the co-owner is a de-facto Director of Football with his own recruitment director reporting to him. Now it may be that this is acceptable to whoever the manager of the day might be but I see a difficult situation in there. We are consistently told that no player is bought before the manager has okayed it which begs the question: “So why don’t we simply act on what the manager wants in the place” rather than be listening to a second voice. I get that the board are spending the money so may feel they must have a say but at the end of the day surely they appoint a manager to make the decisions on players. Look at who has come through door: Payet, Lanzini, Calleri, Masuaku, Jelavic, Tore, Nortveidt, Fletcher, Feghouli, Snodgrass, Fonte, Chicharito, Arnautovich, Fernandes, Zabaleta, Ayew, Snodgrass. I expect I’ve missed some but there are certainly nine bummers in there and whilst I expect the board had their say, the manager will have to hold his hands up on some of them.

Much is being made on net spend and general investment when in fact the club remains a middle PL spender – the ninth highest spenders in the League.

The board, along with Jack Sullivan is regularly accused of talking too much and leaking stuff, and DS certainly has given outspoken interviews in the past and said things which he may have been wiser not to although I haven’t seen anything outrageous so far this season. In fact there’s been a lot of unhappy silence. He might have done well to keep it zipped when pledging to bring in £25 million strikers which possibly gave birth to fans’complaints about lack of investment and there was the William Carvalho nonsense between his opposite number at Sporting Lisbon which, whilst doing no damage in real terms, became extremely embarrassing. Jack, meanwhile as chairman of the Ladies team whilst gathering work experience in the club, has kept it firmly shut after some early youthful outbursts.

DG continues to use Twitter which he’d certainly be wise to bring to an end and Karren Brady can make a serious pig’s ear of things – “I don’t mind if Spurs win the Title” or words to that effect.” Then of course there is the stadium scenario which with many early teething problems which became a preoccupation. The three away games at the start of the season came about as a result of not getting the athletics thing sorted. Not good.


We are regularly told this is the best Hammers squad for years. Really? Charged with giving out the ratings here regularly I look back and see more average and low marks than high. Manchester United Newcastle, Brighton, Swansea and Palace leap to the forefront of your mind. Quality players? Err can we take a rain

Zabaleta - one of only three ever presents.

check on that. We have seen some pretty reckless stuff going on with Arnautovic and Carroll whilst it’s only been over the last couple of games we’ve seen any signs that Ayew is likely to pay back much of his £20 million fee. Even the much lauded Zaba is serving out a suspension for five yellow cards in just 10 games whilst Ogbonna – apart from the Spurs goal – has been something of a disaster. We could go through ’em one by one but I don’t see great players right now although that’s not to say they won’t be at some stage possibly under a new manager. There is little passion at times and even less pace. Frankly, as in other areas the jury remains out.


We need a change of manager. Too many of the ticks that appeared by his name when appointed have disappeared: former West Ham ‘hero’, believer in the West Ham Way and as a former defender a guy who could sort out the back four and eliminate errors. Nope none of the aforementioned. Given the lack of mileage from the team many questions are being asked of him and his backroom team and although I hear answers I don’t see them borne out on the pitch. Alongside that is his share of responsibility on the recruitment front. In a nutshell I don’t believe he’s a great judge of players or is a great tactician.

The board need to think very carefully where they are trying to take this club and when the manager is replaced they should have a very clear idea of the kind of football they want to provide and who can do that rather than get whoever might say yes. There’s a problem right now because they are bound to get only fourth fifth or sixth choice with so few available and that could see us in just as big a mess going forward as we are now. Us fans are gonna love that aren’t we? They should also look at appointing a football person as director of football with DS continuing  to be the Mr Fixit on deals.


Some of us have been around the club for too long to start over worrying. We’ve had so many years on the dark side watching our dreams fade and die. It’s the real West Ham Way. But there is reason to moan when you see eleven misdirected millionaires showing no pace, losing possession, failing to pass the ball properly and falling onto the back foot at the first sign of a real challenge from the opposition. What is particularly worrying right now is that as the transfer window approaches with replacements required we have a lame duck manager in place who may not be trusted with any money after some of his previous buys… or may not be around at all which will have left little time to identify players at a time when it’s tough getting anyone of quality.

We WILL forever blowing bubbles and I believe it will be okay in the end but I am committed to the change I have described here – it needs to happen.


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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


  • Lazurus. rises like a salmon says:

    +1 Basil 😁
    Best blog you have written !! 👍

  • kcockayne says:

    This is a very fair & true assessment, Hugh. Hits the nail firmly on the head. We certainly have not got a very good squad because, if we did , we would not be flirting with relegation. This all has to be sorted out very soon – or else we won’t be “flirting” with relegation; we will be experiencing it !

  • jimbo says:

    Hugh, you’re spot on fella. Well written, accurate and the only real conclusion any of us could reach.
    All I’d add is the Carvalho saga has damaged us Hugh. Had we completed the purchase and brought in a “defensive midfielder” who (in this case) is actually far more than that, I don’t think we would be leaking half the goals we have. Big mistake that one.

  • taybridge says:

    Someone once said ‘you don’t win anything with kids ‘ a certain Scottish guy thought otherwise history tells us he was right not saying we have what he had at his disposal BUT we do have some gems use them

  • JRS says:

    Great article!

  • Michael Miller says:

    Nice article, fair and balanced.

    If we lose on Saturday I think that’s got to be it for Slav. I honestly feel that he’s not up to the job, the Team seem to be totally out of control, the terrible Stats were a wake-up call to the Board to stop shilly-shallying and grasp the nettle.

    As far as Recruitment is concerned, it’s been a shambles – Players bought with seemingly no thought about where they would play and what their role should be. Players used out of position, baffling substitutions, tactical naivety, no pattern of play. People go on about this Squad being the best ever, I just don’t see that, I think it’s shallow and lacking in quality.

    I could go on…

  • Lazurus. rises like a salmon says:

    Balance michael , Balance , the non existence of it !! Plus all the other issues 😉

  • jimbo says:

    Michael/Laz – He’s gotta go even if we pick up a result, because he cannot sustain it, limping on from fiasco to debacle with the odd lucky result scattered in between. And the Dildo’s use that lucky result to delay the inevitable, saving a few pennies whilst they contemplate their navels. As Hugh said, it’s a bloody mess.

  • West Ham Fan No 32 says:

    Agree with most in the article apart from playing defensively or very defensively, we don’t know how to play defensively as our defence gets little support from the midfield and in addition fails to do the things defenders should. We play offensively with many players bombing up the field from time to time but they fail to come back afterwards. also disagree with the bum signings I think they are mostly good players turned bad by the lack of coaching. If we lose to Liverpool which is sadly quite likely and Bilic is still here after the International Break then something is seriously wrong, far better to pay off some compo and move on than hang around killing time and our team, I hope the chairmen come to the only decision that seems sensible and part ways with Slav, it may be regrettable it hasn’t worked out but that’s life.

  • Hammer64 says:

    Really thorough assessment of all aspects of the club. I think most Hammer fans would agree with the majority of it. The Slav supporters have been thin on the ground. It could be that they have been driven away by the ‘moaners’ & their ‘negativity’ (like me )but it must surely be that even the diehards know the game is up for Slaven.

    As you point out the biggest mistake has been to go into the season with him at the helm, so that now we will probably end up with somebody equally second rate. It may then be that for a shameful third time in the last 15 years (& the second time in 8 for the current owners)we will be heading down. That can/ should be still avoided with a good replacement but how on earth did it come to this? Well you have given the answers here Hugh & I really hope the owners read & think about your comments.

  • happyhammer101 says:

    Same analysis as we’ve heard before.
    The cracks started to appear even before we left the Boleyn (4-1 home loss to Swansea).
    The Payet affair should have been a wake up call.
    I fear it may be too late to save us this season if Bilic stays because we’ve dropped so many points against the poorer teams and we have got a lot of games left against the better sides. If the Board grasp the nettle during the international break, we might survive.

  • Hammerkip says:

    I’m the same as 101 this has been going wrong for a long time and even when we had the good season we got lucky a fair amount of times ..but 90% of us know what should happen but its like ground hog day they talk but don’t do ….I never wish us to loose but if it means bilic will go if we get stuffed by Liverpool then I think I could handle another loss ..we have all had enough its really time to act …or relegation beckons ….nice article Hugh 🙏🙅

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