Whether you are ‘Bilic In’ or ‘Bilic Out’, one question is central to the debate: Who would you replace him with? For those that wish to see Slav stay, the question acts as a gauntlet being thrown down. The implication being that there is not an extensive list of potential replacements for the Croatian. Benitez is the obvious front runner given his flirtation with the hot seat here in the past. Roberto Mancini’s name has been mentioned again.
Then there is Maurizio Sarri of Napoli, the ‘big name’ option having got the Naples club playing some of the best football in Europe. But the very fact that one of Europe’s most revered managers is even on our very short shortlist reiterates that claim that there are not a whole host of options out there.
And whilst Benitez is viable, I remain unconvinced about Mancini’s suitability and I’m downright sceptical that Sarri would even consider us. One way to add names to this list is to consider what we need our next manager to do, whether that’s sooner or later, and choose candidates that meet that criteria. In my view, we need a manager who will organise us.
Someone who will make us hard to beat and ensure that when things aren’t going well, the players keep fighting for the shirt. We need a manager who has a clear approach and knows how to use the players at his disposal and get the best out of them.
A manager who doesn’t try to over-complicate things and plays to his team strengths. In short, we need a manager to come in and do what Sam Allardyce did for us – just in a less bolshie and divisive way. Step forward Sean Dyche. Like Allardyce, Dyche is a man whose teams embody his personality.
A solid and dependable centre back who plied his career in the lower leagues, his teams are workman-like and dogged and don’t roll over in the face of adversity. In his time as a manager, he has amassed 273 games in the hot seat of first Watford and more prominently Burnley.
And whilst his win rate over those games is only 39 per cent, he has only lost 31 per cent of his games. He has won 107 games, drawn 81 and lost 85. This means 69 per cent of his games have ended with his sides picking up points. By way of comparison Bilic has picked up points in 65 per cent of his West Ham games, Allardyce 63 per cent.
Like Allardyce, Dyche sets up his team’s first and foremost to be difficult to beat. They are honest and hardworking and, to quote Alan Shearer following their resolute performance at Anfield in September, they ‘enjoy defending’. Last season only West Brom and, bizarrely, Middlesbrough conceded less goals outside of the top eight.
Like Allardyce, he has a slightly unfounded reputation as long ball merchant. Whilst it is true that his Burnley side are not a team that play possession-based football, they do much more with the ball than just lump it aimlessly towards a target man.
They set themselves up to get the ball forward with quick transitions into the wide areas and like to work the keeper as much as possible with crosses and shots from distance. It’s not anti-football as it is often dubbed by pundits and opposing managers alike, it is simply not the tika taka, pass for passing sake, that we are told we should aspire to play. Unlike Allardyce, Sean Dyche is self-effacing rather than brash.
There are, of course, question marks over the man from Northamptonshire. At Burnley he has taken players from the lower leagues and helped them to become Premier League footballers. They owe him and play like they would run through walls for him. How would he cope with superstars with super ego’s like Arnautovic or Hernandez?
There are also different expectations at West Ham compared to Burnley. If Burnley stay up this season, for many that would constitute success. We have our sights set on loftier goals. He has, however, shown this season that he is growing and learning as a manager. Last season, his side only managed seven points away from home. This season they have already picked up points at Chelsea, Spurs and Liverpool.
And who’s to say what he could do with the better players he would have at his disposal if he was to come to east London? Dyche once said ‘It is very difficult to be successful without key core values; respect, good manners, good time-keeping, pride, passion, hard work, belief, integrity. They are the glue that holds everything together’.
It is these things that I feel need instilling into our team. We undoubtedly have talented players, but they lack the mentality and the game plan that would enable them to express their ability. Dyche would give them that platform to perform. And with a shortlist that consists of one genuine option, we could do worse than to add his name to the list.