Saturday, June 23, 2018

Slaven Bilic enduring second-season syndrome at West Ham

David Nugent in Editorial, English Premier League 22 Nov 2016

West Ham have struggled in the Premier League this season under Slaven Bilic

West Ham have struggled in the Premier League this season under Slaven Bilic

Last season West Ham were one of the most entertaining teams to watch in the Premier League in Slaven Bilic’s debut campaign as boss.

The Hammers finished seventh in the table having threatened to gate-crash the top four at one point.

On Sunday, Bilic’s side suffered a last-gasp 3-2 defeat at Tottenham. The defeat came in harsh circumstances, as Harry Kane scored in the 89th and 91st minute to give Spurs the victory.

The defeat leaves the Hammers just a point above the relegation zone.

Second-season syndrome for Slaven Bilic

Second-season syndrome is often talked about like some sort of mythical occurrence. However, it is a very real scenario. Teams or bosses enjoy a season of relative success or overachievement, then for some reason their form tails–off in the next campaign.

Most things seemed to go right for Bilic last season. His signings were a success and at times they got a slice of luck. The Croatian boss has had a mixed managerial record. He did a decent job at first as boss of his countries national team.

He then endured mixed fortunes as boss of Turkish club Besiktas. His appointment as Hammers boss was a slight gamble. His former association with West Ham as a player was probably a deciding factor in his appointment. Bilic was a high-profile former player and available, so he seemed like a good fit.

It was always going to be difficult for the Hammers to equal or better last season’s position. However, the Irons are enduring a poorer season than most anybody could have expected.

Poor at both ends of the field

When Bilic arrived he inherited a very well-organised defensive unit created by former boss Sam Allardyce. The team played with more attrition than attacking intent under Allardyce. Part of the reason Allardyce left the club was the team’s unattractive style.

Last season the style was changed by Bilic with the signings of the likes Dmitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini in the summer. The Hammers style of play improved, but somewhere along the way they lost their defensive solidarity.

This particular factor is quite surprising considered that Bilic was a centre-back himself back in his playing days. At the moment though, the West Ham defence resembles something of a chuckles brothers tribute act.

The defeat at Spurs saw the Hammers score twice. However, goals have been in short supply for Bilic’s team. None of the Irons registered six strikers have scored a Premier League goal this season. Good job they have Michail Antonio, who has now scored six times in the league or their goal tally could be even lower.

Big summer signing Simone Zaza has struggled to adapt to life in England having moved from Juventus. The Hammers identified the need for a new striker in the summer. However, Zaza was not the solution.

There is already speculation that the striker is hoping to move back to his homeland in the January transfer window. The Hammers may be back in the market with the likes of Zaza and Diafra Sakho struggling to score goals and Andy Carroll perennially injured.

Should avoid a relegation battle

The pressure is on Bilic for the Hammers to start producing better results. The Irons are currently just outside the relegation zone. However, Bilic’s side are odds of 13/2 to be relegated this season with six teams shorter odds to go down.

In the likes of Antonio, Payet and Lanzini, West Ham have quality players capable of helping the team to safety. Boss Slaven Bilic is under pressure, but it is too early in the season for the Hammers fans or owners to panic.

The Hammers form of last season has bought the Croatian some time. However, if results do not improve in the near future then Bilic may be getting nervous about his position at the club.

Could West Ham really be in a relegation battle this season?


David Nugent

David is a freelance football writer with nearly a decade of experience writing about the beautiful game. The experienced writer has written for over a dozen websites and also an international soccer magazine offline.
Arguably his best work has come as an editorial writer for Soccernews, sharing his good, bad and ugly opinions on the world’s favourite sport. During David’s writing career he has written editorials, betting previews, match previews, banter, news and opinion pieces.



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