Analysis – What Slaven Bilic Should Do To Take The Hammers Back On Track Following Their Catastrophic Start Of New Season
West Ham United boss Slaven Bilic set the Premier League by storm in his first season in charge as he guided the Hammers to a 7th place finish in the league. But the Croatian struggled to replicate the same last season, following some failed transfer recruits and persistent poor outcomes. Despite talks of facing a sack, Bilic was retained by the management for this campaign and the gaffer, too, looked cautious in summer and analysed the market thoroughly before making a move in the transfer market.
Apparently, he made some impressive inclusions in this window – Pablo Zabaleta has been brought in on a Bosman transfer upon expiration of his contract with Manchester City, wingman Marko Arnautovic has been snapped up by the Hammers boss from Stoke City, English custodian Joe Hart joined them on a season-long loan from Manchester City and Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, the former Manchester United hitman, has returned to his familiar surrounding following two successful seasons with Bundesliga outfit Bayer Leverkusen.
But their new campaign suffered a massive blow when they were humbled by Manchester United at Old Trafford in the season opener. Bilic’s midfield looked clueless and the defence was depleted. They conceded 4 times and failed to pull back any. Bilic, who also had a spell with the Hammers during his playing days, hoped to upturn the fortunes this Saturday against Southampton at St. Marys. But it turned out to be quite the opposite as they conceded in the early minutes. Arnautovic’s stupid red card made things look even worse.
Despite being down by two goals, the Hammers came back spectacularly with 10 men and Chicharito, known for his goal-poaching instinct, netted twice to equalise. But the Saints spoiled the party as they earned a spot-kick in the second half stoppage time and Charlie Austin made no mistake to secure all three points.
West Ham, although they have gone through back to back defeats, showed signs of improvement against Southampton. The return of Michael Antonio, as well as Manuel Lanzini will strengthen them further and the gaffer must work on the basics to bring his side back in winning ways. Bilic will face Newcastle United and Huddersfield Town – two newly promoted outfits, in the next two league outings and must grab this opportunity to fix their derailed campaign.
Bilic tried out a ‘back three’ formation last season but has switched to his usual ‘back four’ this term. Jose Fonte looked unsettled in the three-man back-line since his January move from Southampton and both Winston Reid and Angelo Ogbonna have been inconsistent following their persistent injury woes. The Hammers boss must find an experienced centre-half (Chris Smalling is not fancied by Mourinho and will be a massive influence) before the transfer deadline day.
West Ham’s midfield looks stagnant at times. Mark Noble puts all the hard work, but he lacks creativity and the Hammers must start finding his long term successor. They have already agreed to terms with Portuguese international William Carvalho who can be a proper influence and serve the purpose on the long run.
Teenager Declan Rice was tried out in midfield and both Edimilson Fernandes and Pedro Obiang have struggled to impress the gaffer so far. Cheikhou Kouyate will fit straight in the middle of the park when he returns from injury. Thus, the Hammers are supposed to strike back when they have all their resources along with a new defensive recruit. Till then, the supporters need to be patient with Bilic and let him fix things up.