Despite alarm bells ringing for quite some time, I think our 3-0 home loss to Brighton was the moment when the writing was on the wall for Bilic and a decision regarding his future was imminent.
Then following the 4-1 home loss to Liverpool at the London Stadium, it felt inevitable that it would prove to be the final blow in which he was relieved of his duties. Before looking at what went so horribly wrong for Bilic, let’s not forget Bilic guided us to our joint-best league finish this century in his first 12 months at the club.
But what followed that standout season is why many believed he simply had to go. It is as if since that season we have watching a team gradually worsening in direction and confidence. So where did it all go wrong Bilic?
The move to the London Stadium has got to be one of the biggest reason as to why we have struggled so much in the past couple of seasons. With the stadium switch, the team lost the advantage of playing at the Boleyn Ground, which had helped Bilic so much in his first season.
An increase in crowd support and attendances haven’t exactly been matched by spirited performances. Bilic’s exit from the club isn’t simply the result of a bad start this season, as the 2016/17 term was also one of great disappointment. We finished 17 points fewer than the 2015/16 season total and were lucky to secure an 11th place finish.
The loss of the Frenchman Dimitri Payet was another big factor, despite leaving in January he still managed to create more chances than any other player. Standout performances from the likes of Lanzini weren’t a strong enough creative solution, resulting in a lack of goals and disappointing results.
What was needed was a big signing, a proven playmaker or goalscorer. instead we were met with a series of unproven and overpriced individuals. Transfer windows were the perfect opportunity for Bilic to replace his star man, but none of the signings came into fruition. Signings made this summer were just as unsuccessful, record-signing Marko Arnautovic being the most disappointing of them all.
It was hoped that signings like Hernandez would bring goals to the team, yet out of the three matches he has scored in, two have been losses.
Yet it is my concern over how autonomous he was actually able to be in regards to transfers, was he restricted by the board? A question commonly asked is whether the players worked hard enough under him. It is my firm belief that they didn’t. Some of the players performances this year have been the worst I’ve ever seen.
Many hoped our win at Tottenham would have triggered a revival, yet the Tottenham game was more a case of them having an awful second half, than us playing well. There is no doubt within our team there are some seriously gifted players, but if they aren’t playing as a team, then their skills go amiss.
I did, however, find Bilic very likeable in that he spoke and acted like a fan, acting often as a buffer between the fans and the board. But one thing that became gradually apparent over the course of Bilics’ reign, was the lack of identity. There are question marks as to whether Bilic actually knew what his best team was, or what players’ best positions were.
Snodgrass’ concerns came on his debut, when just before coming on Bilic asked him what wing he wanted to play on. Snodgrass is quoted as saying: ‘That was my debut and alarm bells were ringing right away’. The same concern arose with Hernandez, the goal-scoring striker being asked to play on the wing several times. In Bilic’s first season in charge, West Ham had a real identity. They would go out and attack teams regardless of how good they were.
Yet after his first season it appeared that his teams lacked the style and confidence that they previously possessed. Bilic has left Moyes with a massive task ahead of him, we are in a relegation battle and are seriously low on confidence. Drastic change needs to take place and with Moyes’ infamous reputation as a slow starter, it is a worrying time for us.
Any notion of playing the ‘West Ham way’ needs to be temporarily abandoned, the new man has just six months to keep us in the division. It is often the case that the search for such a style of play is accompanied with a vulnerability in defence.
Instead what the club need Moyes to do is implement the basics again, so the club can regain the stability that Bilic couldn’t provide. The task ahead is clear – avoid relegation.