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Slaven Bilic: The unsung mastermind of the Premier League

A kiss for good luck / Image via irishmirror.ie

A kiss for good luck / Image via irishmirror.ie

The Croatian tactician returned to West Ham in June 2015 with an idea to help Hammers preserve their Premier League status and introduce a different type of football for the new season – an entertaining and exciting brand.

The 47-year-old Slaven Bilic signed a three-year contract to replace Sam Allardyce who left at the end of the 2014-15 season and Bilic returned to the club he played for between 1996 and 1997.

Having spent two years at the helm of the Turkish side Besiktas, Slaven Bilic was met with general disbelief and lack of support from the football public in England.

Branded as the great motivator, but poor tactician, Croatian manager succeeded in proving everybody wrong in just a couple of month of his tenure at the Boleyn Ground.

Rock music lover and a passionate person as he is, Slaven Bilic is a worthy match to the highly popular Jurgen Klopp, who has taken the Premier League by storm.

But, with his team currently in sixth place in the standings and the odds of 14/1 to finish within the Premier League’s top four at the end of the season, it is fair to say that Slaven Bilic does not receives the praise he deserves.

Blistering start

His life back at West Ham began with a 2-0 triumph over Arsenal at the Emirates stadium, with Kouyate and Zarate’s goals making the difference against the Gunners in the opening round of the new Premier League season.

Bilic’s brave approach against Arsene Wenger’s men was seen through the fact that he started the match and the entire season with the, at the time, 16-year-old England midfielder Reece Oxford, who produced a jaw-dropping performance, keeping Mesut Ozil in his pocket for the entire time he spent on the pitch.

Oxford has since then played five Premier League matches and he also got his chance against Tottenham last time out, when he was awarded with a half an hour in the second half and a hug from his manager upon his entrance on the pitch.

Oxford’s mature performances and down-to-earth behaviour on and off the pitch are all Bilic’s credit whose man management skills make him a brilliant football coach.

Following their impressive away win over Arsenal, Hammers went on to record 11 more Premier League wins, 10 draws and 6 defeats with just ten rounds to go in the Premier League season.

Among other positive results, Bilic’s men have dispatched Liverpool twice, Manchester City and Chelsea along the way and are coming off from the impressive 1-0 Wednesday triumph over title contenders Tottenham.

Tactical brilliance

With his tactics disputed upon the arrival to England Slaven Bilic has managed to convince the football-loving population of his tactical ability and the match against Mauricio Pochettino’s men is just the most recent example.

The Croatian tactician fielded a team of three players in the back-line with Ogbonna, Collins and Couyate in front of Adrian in goal and it proved to be the vital change to his usual four-man defensive line.

The three defenders completely isolated Harry Kane leaving the England international impotent up front with his team unable to breach through and feed the balls to their teammate. Not a single attempt on goal from Tottenham in the first 45 minutes speaks volumes of Tottanham’s inability to pierce Bilic’s wall.

Tactical change from his favoured 4-2-3-1 took Spurs by surprise and Pochettino should be happy with the fact his team ended up conceding only one to motivated West Ham side.

Motivator and a friend

Slaven Bilic tries to keep close relationships with his players.

Kissess, hugs and first-bumps are regular sight on the touchline as his players are coming on and off the pitch, which have all made the Croatian tactician a popular figure with his team’s supporters, players and club owners.

Slaven Bilic is the first one to stand up for his players in the media, which was the case with Michail Antonio just a couple of days ago.

Scorer of the match-winner against Tottenham was last week compared to Homer Simpson for his unusual celebration of the goal against Sunderland, when he dropped to the turf and propelled himself in circles.

Bilic, however, was adamant that all the comparisons should be put aside as there is a huge difference between Homer Simpson and his man because of the differences in work-rate.

West Ham manager just doesn’t stop to surprise us with his antics.

Following the 1-0 victory over Sunderland he gave one Hammers fan a birthday to remember. A Matthew was celebrating his 18th birthday last week and he was invited by Slaven Bilic to join him during his post-match press conference, where he answered the questions alongside the Hammers boss.

The man who wants to write poetry about Dimitri Payet in order to describe his majestic performances is building something special with West Ham this season and should be applauded for his incredible influence after a highly disappointing and inanimate season and a 12th-place finish.

Thu 3 Mar, 2016
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