Slaven Bilic became the fourth Premier League manager to lost his job this season after West Ham made the decision to sack him after the 4-1 home defeat to Liverpool and David Moyes looks set to replace him. This has been a long time coming for the Croatian manager, as the team have been uninspiring since the beginning of last season. However, he will argue that he did a good job with the Hammers, with his Premier League points per game (1.33) the best of any manager that has been in charge of the club.
His overall Premier League record isn’t bad, as he won 30 of his 87 matches in charge, leaving him with a win rate of 34%. For a team operating outside of the top-six, this isn’t bad, but the big disappointment was his failure to kick on after an excellent first season in charge. He led the team to a 7th place finish and it was in this campaign that 16 of his 30 wins came. They were full of confidence during their final year at Upton Park and managed to qualify for the Europa League, which was a great achievement for the club.
Only three teams lost fewer matches than West Ham during that season and foundations were build that made supporters believe that they could become a force in the Premier League, especially with the move to the Olympic Stadium. It was important to retain that momentum, but a disappointing summer of recruitment followed. The likes of Simone Zaza, Gokhan Tore, Sofiane Feghouli and Alvaro Arbeloa can all be regarded as failures, while Andre Ayew has not done enough to justify a £21.7 million spend.
The unhappiness of star player Dimitri Payet didn’t help as he looked unmotivated and that attitude seeped into the rest of the squad and the supporters. A quick Europa League exit and a mediocre Premier League campaign saw the club disappear into mediocrity again. That summer was an opportunity missed and Bilic never fully recovered from that. There were some good results, such as the home win over Tottenham in May, but it was clear that the Croatian was unlikely to take the club forward.
It was clear to supporters and the wider public that a managerial change was needed at the club, but Bilic always managed to eke out results when the pressure was at its highest. The win over Tottenham was one example of that as it arguably led to the board keeping him in position during the summer. The end of last season presented the perfect opportunity to make a change, but they refused to do it and they are now suffering for that this season.
This summer represented another series of poor decisions made by the club that started with keeping the manager. Their recruitment was poor for the second successive close season, as they brought in Marko Arnautovic, Javier Hernandez, Joe Hart and Pablo Zabaleta. There was little squad planning that went into these acquisitions. The motivation for signing all four was based on their reputations rather than how they would fit into the team.
Zabaleta was brought in to start at right-back in what was already a slow and ageing defence. Joe Hart has been on the decline for a number of seasons and isn’t an upgrade on Adrian. The other two players have proven themselves to be good Premier League attackers, but there is no defined system at West Ham and they have struggled to make an impact. These followed the January additions of Jose Fonte and Robert Snodgrass, who were signed based on their recent good form rather than being the right fit for West Ham.
The continual errors in judgement and lack of squad planning in recruitment have left West Ham with a problematic squad. Bilic has been criticised for being a poor tactician and this season looked like it was set up for disaster from the opening weekend. That is exactly what has followed.
At the time of the sacking, West Ham are positioned in the bottom three after taking only nine points from their opening ten matches. The most concerning statistic is their 23 goals conceded, which ranks them as the worst defence in the Premier League. Considering their lack of pace in the back four, this isn’t a surprise. Five of their losses have been by two goals or more. It is relegation form and they needed to make the change sooner rather than later.
What is next for West Ham?
For the reasons listed above, the West Ham job is not an attractive one for an incoming manager. The lure of the Premier League will always be enough to make it appealing for some, but they are unlikely to attract a top manager. A number of sources, including the Guardian, are reporting that David Moyes is set to take over on a six-month deal.
His Premier League experience is the only thing in his favour and that is overrated, as underlined by Marco Silva since he arrived in England. Moyes has failed in every post he has held since leaving Everton and there is little reason to believe he could replicate that with West Ham.
Last season, he oversaw a terrible campaign as Sunderland manager, as his side were in the relegation zone for the majority of the season and were condemned to the drop in April. For a manager that is portrayed as a good coach and an effective organiser of a defence, Moyes was awful at the Stadium of Light. There was little sign of fight from his players and his negativity in press-conferences was a major reason for that.
Within weeks of the season starting, Moyes admitted to Sky Sports that the club were going to face another relegation fight, which immediately set the agenda for the campaign ahead.
“Well, they would probably be right because that’s where they’ve been every other year for the last four years, so why would it suddenly change?
“I think it will be, I don’t think you can hide the facts, that will be the case, yes. People will be flat because they are hoping that something is going to dramatically change – it can’t dramatically change, it can’t.”
These are remarkable quotes from a manager of a Premier League and his lack of enthusiasm and defeatist attitude would have shattered any belief the playing squad had in their ability to avoid a relegation fight. It is acceptable to aim to avoid relegation, but there are ways to portray that message. This wasn’t it and it was an incredible piece of bad management that somebody with Moyes’ experience shouldn’t have made.
Considering West Ham’s current position and lack of confidence, it would be optimistic to think Moyes is the right man to turn things around. Bilic was often criticised for the way he carried himself, but the former Everton and Manchester United manager is unlikely to be any different in this regard.
According to Jason Burt of the Telegraph, the owners are having doubts about the appointment and that will not do much to inject positivity into the squad or supporters. If they do make this appointment, it would be another bad decision from the board and a string of bad decisions in the Premier League only lead to one thing, relegation.