Slaven Bilic’s return to West Ham as a manager coincided with a great season at the club, both in terms of results and the style of football. The regime of Sam Allardyce may have brought stability to the club, but it was painful for the supporters who had always associated West Ham with beautiful and flowing football. Last season was a right time for David Gold to admit that Allardyce’s time at West Ham was not pretty. Hence, it was a sign of relief to see Bilic give the supporters what they had wanted from the team for a long time.
The club averaged only 1.1 goals per game in Allardyce’s last three seasons. This figure immediately jumped to 1.7 goals per game under Bilic. Apart from the increase in entertainment value, the club also came closest to securing Champions League football.
Interestingly, Bilic was able to combine beautiful football with results, and this combination is seen as the ultimate achievement for many managers. Looking closely, though, Bilic was able to achieve the consistency of results not just by playing beautiful football, but adapting to the situation. There were games last season when the players were on song during the early part of the campaign and Bilic made most of the situation by establishing himself amongst the West Ham faithful as an attractive manager. Fans, though, will not remember the games in which West Ham did not do much apart from holding on nervously.
Even the best teams will have to go through periods where they struggle. In those circumstances, being street smart is of paramount importance and fighting for the win is not always ugly. At the end of the day, it is also about three points and most managers would pick the latter. Bilic was aware and strong enough to admit that he was going to choose three points over beautiful football if his team was not at its best.
Arsenal is probably one of the best examples of a team not adapting to the situation. Arsene Wenger’s strict adherence to his philosophy of beautiful and flowing football has been a major factor towards the club’s inability to win the league title for more than a decade.
As West Ham now possess players like Payet and Ayew, they can show off the ‘West Ham way’ on many occasions this season. However, players like Andy Carroll and Mark Noble will be those required when the going gets tough.
Watch all the goals scored by the Hammers last season;