On The Spot: Why Is Slaven Bilic Still Around?

The question I think most Hammers fans want answered is this: Why the heck is Slaven Bilic still manager of their team? Unfortunately, only David Sullivan and David Gold, owners of the West Ham United football club, can answer that question.

This is a side that went out there this summer to try and make a statement. They signed Pablo Zabaleta on a free transfer after the Argentinean ended his nine-year stint at the Etihad Stadium and then brought in his ex-teammate Joe Hart in on loan. Both were supposed to be an upgrade from Sam Byram and Adrián San Miguel del Castillo, respectively. Up front, they finally realized that an injury-prone Andy Carroll was probably not who they should be counting on to get them the goals. So they signed Chicharito, the former Manchester United striker, and broke the club transfer record to sign Marko Arnautovic from Stoke City.

The move to the London Stadium was supposed to mark a new era for this historic football club. Yet West Ham struggled through last season, eventually finishing in an anonymous 11th place. Summer spending was supposed to help the club get to the next level.

But results have not improved. West Ham was pedestrian on opening day at Old Trafford, on the wrong end of a 4–0 trashing by Manchester United. They then undid all of Chicharito’s hard work by conceding a late penalty against Southampton. They were then played off the park at Newcastle before being comprehensively beaten by newly promoted Brighton and Hove Albion 3–0 in Gameweek 9.

And in games which West Ham led, it’s been guilty of not seeing its games out. The team conceded a late equalizer at Burnley to Chris Wood and, just this past weekend, let a two-goal lead slip after half-time against bottom-of-the-table Crystal Palace in the 97th minute.

I’m not sure I’ve seen a West Ham game this season, bar maybe the Southampton game and the come-from-behind victory over Tottenham in the League Cup, when I’ve been convinced that this was just “unlucky” West Ham United. In fact, I think it’s clear that Slaven Bilic does not know what his best team is, what formation to use these players in or how to instill tactical discipline in his players. Why, for instance, would you play Andy Carroll against a West Brom side that is so dominant in the air?

Marko Arnautovic is a case in point. Against Southampton, Arnautovic got himself sent off for a reckless and needless elbow on Southampton defender Jack Stephens. Against Brighton, both Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher chewed Arnautović out for not doing his defensive duties in tracking back. Similarly, it is high time that Bilic recognizes that Zabaleta’s best days as an attacking full-back are behind him. Time and again, Bilic’s rather old backline has been caught out by the pace of the opponents. Zabaleta, known for bombing forward, has been out of position on more than one occasion.

And as Bilic’s men prepare to face Liverpool this weekend, you wonder if the question is not if Liverpool will beat West Ham, but by how much.