Saturday was a rather rough day for Slaven Bilic: not only did he see his West Ham side slaughtered 1-5 in the evening kick off against Arsenal, his odds of being the next Premier League manager to leave their post tumbled from a relatively safe 8/1 down to as short as 13/8 in places.
Of course, that market move was triggered by the upturn in fortunes of the previous favourite, Alan Pardew. His Crystal Palace side smashed Southampton to ease their relegation worries and smooth the fur of the silver fox himself; he has subsequently lengthened to 10/3.
The bookmakers’ favourite is Bob Bradley, whose Swansea side had their wings clipped 0-5 by Spurs. The sheer number of goals that the Welsh side must be of grave concern to the board of directors there, and having had a reputation for patience for so long the brutal sackings of Gary Monk and Francesco Guidolin suggest that Bradley may not be sleeping so easily at the moment.
But the biggest mover is Bilic, and while you might expect he would be shown loyalty considering the feats he achieved in the 2015/16 campaign, as we all know football is a funny old game; these days more than ever. Truly nobody is safe.
Slaven Bilic – The Case For
It’s easy to make the case for Bilic to remain in the Upton, sorry, Olympic Stadium hot seat. Just cast your mind back 12 months, when West Ham were playing the kind of sexy football that makes John Motson purr like a wolverine having his tummy tickled. Dimitri Payet was on fire, Andy Carroll was knocking in the goals and everything was hunky dory.
Okay, so things have changed a lot since then. Payet is stone cold, and Carroll has largely been injured this season. And that’s been one of the major factors behind the Hammers’ failings: they have been crippled by a lengthy injury list.
Also, Bilic has had to cope with the move away from the Irons’ beloved Boleyn Ground to this new Olympic Park set-up, which is, unfortunately, too big as a football stadium. The Claret and Blue faithful can be singing their hearts out, but the open-air, cavernous build of the stadium means that the sound gets completely lost. It’s more gingerbread house than fortress.
So, surely Bilic deserves more time? A period of transition was always likely, and once his squad returns to its full compliment surely the Hammers will climb up the table with the minimum of fuss.
Slaven Bilic – The Case Against
There is a school of thought that says that whatever happens on the pitch, the buck must stop with the manager. It is he who decides upon the starting eleven, who devised tactics and who gets to spend the GDP of a small African country every summer bringing in new faces.
It is this latter point that provokes the ire of Irons fans most chiefly. Bilic had a war chest of a cool £50m to play with, and while Andre Ayew has been most injured, unluckily, others have rather failed to deliver. Manuel Lanzini (£10m) has impressed in pitches, but it is clear that Arthur Masuaka (£6m) is not an adequate replacement for Aaron Cresswell and Edimilson Fernandes (£6m), at the moment at least, appears out of his depth.
Factor in the loan fees of Simone Zaza (£4.5m) and Jonathan Calleri (£4m), to strikers who couldn’t his a cow’s backside with the proverbial, and it is obvious that the Croatian gaffer has rather fluffed a golden opportunity to take the Hammers on to the next level.
Football works in mysterious ways these days, and if Slaven Bilic was sacked it would barely raise an eyebrow in this mad managerial merry-go-round.
But it should, because Bilic is a fine manager who proved last season just what an exciting side he can assemble when supported. The 2016/17 campaign has been less than satisfactory, granted, but time and patience are vastly underrated commodities in the modern game. With a full season at Olympic Park under their belt and a full compliment of players to pick from, nobody would be surprised if West Ham climbed up the table in the new year.
For punters, well, quite frankly, expect Bradley to be sacked before any serious questions are posed about Bilic’s future.