Friday 16 March 2018

Slaven, on rhythm

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic hopes his team will be ready to spring an opening day surprise in the Barclays Premier League.
West Ham manager Slaven Bilic hopes his team will be ready to spring an opening day surprise in the Barclays Premier League.

Slaven Bilic has warned Arsenal that his West Ham side will be ready to spring an opening weekend surprise when the London rivals meet in August.

Starting their season just 39 days after the curtain fell on 2014/15, and on former manager Sam Allardyce, the Hammers could have played six competitive games by the time Bilic takes his squad to the Emirates Stadium.

And, whilst both Bilic and Allardyce have voiced their concerns over the number of games West Ham could play should they advance, the current incumbent knows from experience that an early season boost could be the result of such an early return to action.

"It's good for the start, definitely," he said.

"The best examples are from your own history, not from the books, the experience you have. I only have to look at last year when we played with Besiktas, we played Arsenal in the Champions League play-off.

"We were fitter than them. We had already played Feyenoord in the previous round and we were fitter. Arsenal had only played the Community Shield and Crystal Palace and we were already in the season.

"It gives you a definite advantage in the beginning of the season. What about November, December or Christmas time, which is already so tough here? We're going to try to be aware of all the situations."

Ahead of the club's second round qualifying opener against Birkirkara of Malta on Thursday, Allardyce questioned whether Bilic's squad would be strong enough to cope with three cup competitions and a competitive league.

Former Croatia coach Bilic echoed those sentiments before praising the job his predecessor had done at Upton Park.

"I would like to thank the ex-manager Sam," he said.

"He left me a really good team and good atmosphere and he didn't leave me a mess. It is solid and it is a great, great base for me to try and improve."

Bilic has added to that base by bringing in the likes of Pedro Obiang, Dimitri Payet and Angelo Ogbonna - the latter pair both commanding eight-figure transfer fees - as well as resigning Arsenal right-back Carl Jenkinson on a second season-long loan.

Another name from the final campaign of the Allardyce era who could yet return to the club is Alex Song.

The Barcelona midfielder was another player who spent last year on loan with the Hammers but the Cameroon international could make that move permanent - with only a niggling injury delaying the move.

"Although I said I'm not going to discuss players from other teams, he is somewhere in between," Bilic said when asked about the prospect of signing Song.

"He played here on loan last year and he's a little bit injured. I don't deny that he was a great player who did really well last year and I would like him to stay with us."

Press Association

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport