Back last year The Mirror’s Mike Walters gave Claret amdHugh his assessment of the Hammers and their manager as we went from chaos to disaster . Now Mike – a great writer and personal pal – takes a look at what’s happened since in a blog which brings an objective view of where the Irons are at. We’re grateful to him for his words. ENJOY!
By MIKE WALTERS
NOBODY likes a smart-alec, but here goes anyway.
Back in September, when the Hammers lost 4-2 at West Brom and the game was over as a contest by half-time, there were isolated but audible rumblings of restlessness among the travelling chaps from claret-and-blue heartlands.
Simone Zaza was strolling around, waiting for his butler to deliver acceptable chances on a silver platter, Arthur Masuaku played like Arthur Mullard, Adrian’s confidence looked more shorn than Shaun the Sheep, Andre Ayew and Andy Carroll were invalids and West Ham were not just suffering teething troubles at their new home: They were having root canal treatment.
I recall counselling here against the removal of Slaven Bilic on the basis he could not have morphed from pied piper to liability in the space of five Premier League games and his unlikely feat of establishing a Romanian bogey team in Europe.
Yes, there were alarm bells, but at least there was someone home in the belfry.
Bilic always struck me as an impressive bloke from the moment he pitched up at Chadwell Heath 21 years ago, fluent in five languages (Serbo-Croat, German, English, pie and mash) and looked the part at centre-back from his very first training session.
He was just as impressive in his first season as the Irons manager, forsaking the sterility of his predecessor’s pragmatism with a glorious opening statement at Arsenal, and it was no coincidence that away wins at Liverpool, Manchester City and Everton followed.
This season, Bilic has needed to prove himself as a smart practitioner of man-management as much as a tactically literate coach, and his handling of the Dimitri Payet stand-off was not just outstanding because West Ham made a 230 per cent profit on him in 18 months. He used a truculent Frenchman’s squeals about wanting to go home to galvanise the team.
Recent performances against Middlesbrough, Crystal Palace, Southampton, West Brom and Watford have confirmed what we knew all along: West Ham were never going to be in serious danger of relegation if the collective ability of Bilic’s sqaud did what it said on the tin.
Payet? He scored one of the goals of the season with that waltzing slalom through Boro’s defence last October, but it was increasingly apparent towards Christmas that he was the biggest show in town – and he knew it. His return ticket to Marseille was the best solution for all concerned (except Marseille, who have just been tonked 5-1 by Paris St Germain).
Can you hazard a guess at the state West Ham might be in now if it was Bilic who had gone and Payet had stayed?
Here’s a clue: They would probably be nearer the bottom than the ninth place where they enjoy mid-table security now – which is no mean feat after such a lousy start.
Its no surprise we have picked up since the weasel left the building.Bilic is doing a fine job.Not bad for a man who according to some has no tactics,had lost the dressing room and doesnt have a fit squad Lol
Anything is possible, never mind Payet the players didn’t turn up until just before Christmas you can’t blame all that on Payet even though that was a big determining factor, no one can question Slav has done a good job across almost two seasons but if you were to grade him last season was a definite 8 probably a 9 despite not winning anything, this season for me anyway I would at the moment give him a 5 maybe a 6 at a push if we finish 10th or lower that would go down considerably. The questions surround how good he is at firing teams up for must win games and whether we can withstand constant pressure without conceding goals, neither of those questions has been successfully answered this season, on a big pitch like our home one we have to have a way of defending against superior passing teams, if anyone believes we have that fair play to them but I don’t see enough of that and it is a key ingredient to long term success, we have to be able to grind out points aswell as win them through creating chances. Talking of creating chances our shot conversion rate is abominable we frequently get less than 20% of our shots on target and less still end up in goals which can be put down to a few factors, the quality of chances we create (which was a lot better with Payet) the offensive attributes we have, severely diminished without Carroll and a lack of pace to get behind our opponents or counter with numbers, thus creating less clear chances, the options available to the forward players when in offensive positions due to either lack of numbers or lack of movement, poor choices made when passing would be better than shooting, Antonio is a serial offender in the poor choices he often shoots when he should pass mostly resulting in missing the target high or wide, imho a lack of fitness and pressing game (when Bilic first joined us he said we should put pressure on every throw every goal kick etc that the opponent made where has that been for over a season now ? ) all of these things are within Bilic and his coaching teams scope to improve but I see a steady decline for the last 12 months now and you might argue about the Stadium etc but this was happening last season also but we got away with it in many games which hasn’t happened in more than two this season and they were against teams in the lower half of the table not the big ones like City, Everton, Utd etc. Bilic also makes odd tactical decisions such as playing Antonio as a right back, persisting with them even when it is obvious they do not work and are unlikely to in the future, it is right now that we should stick with Bilic until the end of the season and maybe even give him another season when we are free from the baggage of a new stadium but to be so uncompetitive in big games is not something our club should be striving to we have a home support which will be the second biggest in the league if we go up to 66500 that is a base from which we should be able to at the least establish ourselves in the Europa League positions within the next couple of years, I believe we have a comparable squad of players to Liverpool and Everton the thing that seperates them from us is pace, athleticism and strikers that can hit the target regularly. Everyone seemed happy when we sold Valencia to Everton but they were laughing because like it or not he was one of our weapons, he made a lot of ball recoveries and interceptions and he had genuine pace as well as being good in the air and even though he might not be a first choice they are our competitor and they took away one of our assetts which has helped them move ahead of us, you could ask yourself a question when Cresswell had Valencia to help him out on the left were the team defensively more resilient ? I would say yes but I do accept Valencia’s performances really dropped last season but who knows when Payet was no longer worth his shirt Valencia might have got an extended run and improved enough to fill the gap. Finally you will be relieved to hear what player can you look at in our team and say they have really improved as a player since Bilic’s appointment or in the time they have been with us ? Imho all are no better apart from perhaps Lanzini, Antonio has got steadilly worse, Payet got worse, Valencia fell off a cliff, Noble is as bad as I can remember, Obiang is steady but should have been in the team last season, Adrian got worse, Cresswell has been worse, Ogbonna is worse this season than last, the strikers show no confidence in front of goal except Carroll overall I would say he may be a good manager and a great personality but in terms of improving players and the team after a good start we have not improved at all and the players despite being young are diminishing when they should be strengthening. I hope he proves me wrong but I don’t see it.
The cats out of the bag,32 is actually Jose Mourinho 😂😂
Im more than happy with how we are doing but i never expect too much from us.We are West Ham,sat roughly were we realistically should be.I think in the transfer market this summer we were 11th or 12th with regards to business.We dont have world beating players,we dont have the finance to mix it with the big boys continually at the moment.We are where i expected us to be if im honest.It does for me.Never want us to be a new Chelski with plastic fans & a title that has been bought anyway 😁
lol Rads I am definitely not Mourinho nor ever likely to be a football manager, 😀 I like Bilic and last season was amazing but I just call what I see, not saying it is right just an opinion whoever was in charge even when it was Allardyce and Grant I still went to watch us and will always but we have an opportunity now to step up and compete with the big boys, it is imho a window of opportunity so it is important that the manager doesn’t sit on his laurels and like most other managers we have had settle for mid table mediocrity, we need someone who will get on the players make them work hard and break us into that elite group, you can see this season the big teams are trying to price the coming bunch out again, some very dubious sponsorship deals to keep the status quo, if we don’t jump on the bandwagon while we have the chance we may get left behind, would it be any different from my 40+ years supporting the club ? No, but would I like to see a change and us among the contenders and actually winning anything ? Absolutely COYI !!!
Lol only joking with you 32 you know that.Personally mate the thought of us being taken over by a billionaire owner who buys the title is something i dread.Though i know others would be happy with it,its just not something i would enjoy seeing.If your going to do it do it the Leicester way.Though i know that is near on impossible.
As it stands we will always be in the second bracket of teams in the Prem when it comes to players & finance.I can live with that myself.I know it isnt very ambitious on my oart but i like us the way we are,a decent team but not world beaters,i love the buzz of us turning over a bigger team when its not expected 😉
Yeah same as that to some degree Rads, I want to see us build gradually establish ourselves in Europa League and one day Champions League, football is such a procession these days in all the leagues it is nearly as boring as Formula1 towards the end of the season, I want us to at least be in with a chance, watching the EFL cup final and again Utd being awarded the Cup by referees when the best team loses because the dice are loaded against them, we have suffered that for all my time, there isn’t a statistic out there that can remotely suggest that luck evens out over a season, Leicester won the league last season and you know why ? Because they were statistically alongside Man U the luckiest team, if we had been as lucky as them we would have won the league and by a lot more points than they did. The leagues and cups are decided by referees so I wouldn’t even put it down to luck I would say it is corruption, every team outside the top 6 plays against a loaded deck, I used to be a dealer in the casino’s so I know a little bit about odds and all the major leagues work on a handicap system where all the teams below the usual suspects are given a handicap because the ref’s each season are going to award them a certain amount of free points, as such they end up with more money each year due to greater TV exposure and a larger fanbase which distorts their advantage further, even if a billionaire took over the club they have now put measures in (FFP) to stop clubs buying success and breaking the cartel, it is as plain as the nose on your face that they saw all of the money flooding in and the Euro giants got nervous so FIFA and UEFA stepped in to stop teams doing a Man City they now pay the teams that have been in the Champons League a greater share of the pot depending on how many season they have been in it, that is not in the remotest bit fair or right it is just another loading of the dice. Like all football fans I want to see us win something and we seem a long way from that after flirting with it last season, to take it further I don’t even think last season was a fluke, I think it was controlled, the season the biggest deal in football history was announced there was a chance to promote the league to the widest possible audience with a “miracle” Leicester were the recipients and best of luck to them but without referees onside they would have finished lower than we did, remember we were in the top 4 even with a number of dubious decisions, then as the season went on we were denied multiple times against Utd helping them to win a cup and denying us league points, we were denied against Chelsea, then we had a number of draws that should have been wins in February / March to establish the order below the usual suspects eventually all those knocks took their toll and instead of being in control, we were chasing for points making mistakes that cost us a Europa League group stage place. It was the FA looking after the big teams like they always do, from top to bottom in football it is corrupt. The only way to fix it is by doing what every other big sport does and use television replays but that won’t happen unless the FBI can find more evidence to break the cartel.
hehe is it christmas yet I sound like scrooge 😀