Saturday 17 March 2018

Beleaguered Bilic given two games to save Hammers job

The chances of Bilic being West Ham manager next season are slim. Photo credit: Adam Davy/PA Wire.
The chances of Bilic being West Ham manager next season are slim. Photo credit: Adam Davy/PA Wire.

Jason Burt

West Ham United do not want to sack Slaven Bilic but Saturday's Premier League match away to Crystal Palace appears to be increasingly key to the manager's future.

There is concern in the West Ham hierarchy about the form and fitness of some star players.

Bilic will be given tomorrow's League Cup tie against Tottenham Hotspur - who are expected to field a weakened team - and the league fixture away to Palace to turn things around. West Ham then face Liverpool before the international break.

Bilic is aware of the situation, with concern expressed by senior figures at the club following Friday's poor 3-0 home defeat against newly-promoted Brighton.

A number of issues have been raised following that game including the form of players such as Andre Ayew and Marko Arnautovic. Both have struggled after their moves from Swansea City and Stoke City respectively, while Joe Hart, on loan from Manchester City, has failed to prove he is a significant upgrade in goal on Adrian.

The fact the Brighton match was shown live on television compounded West Ham's embarrassment although despite the ongoing uncertainty over Bilic's future, with his contract expiring at the end of this season, the club would prefer to keep him until the end of this campaign, when they will assess the situation.

Crowded Even so, the chances of Bilic being West Ham manager next season are slim. They do not have anyone lined up to replace him should he go before then but, with Leicester City and now Everton already in the market to find a new manager, the market place is crowded.

Bilic has faced questions before from the West Ham owners over the fitness and conditioning of his squad with, for example, scrutiny over the distance covered by players in matches, and the injury record during his time as manager. These have now re-emerged. There are also questions being asked over his tactics - with a sense that West Ham are better suited, with their current personnel, to playing three at the back.

Ironically, this was the system that Bilic deployed when he was under pressure last season and first used when his team went to Palace and won 1-0 last October. Bilic has been reluctant to change back because he wants to get his attacking players, including Javier Hernandez, into the team. There was disappointment that West Ham did not sign holding midfielder William Carvalho during the summer, as he was regarded as crucial to the way Bilic wants to play.

Despite the scrutiny, Bilic remains a popular and respected figure at West Ham and there is no suggestion that the players have turned against him. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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