Why Bilic needs this wel­come break from pres­sures

It’s foot­ball’s in­ter­na­tional break, time for West Ham to take stock

The Wharf - - Details -

Is man­ager Slaven Bilic go­ing to be sacked? He’s cur­rently sec­ond favourite to be first to leave his Premier League club (after Palace’s Frank de Boer) but those on the in­side sug­gest he’s safe for now. What’s gone wrong? Re­sults. Re­sults. Re­sults. Three games in and West Ham are rock bot­tom. Bilic spent the sum­mer bol­ster­ing his de­fence – with sign­ings such as Pablo Za­baleta and on-loan goal­keeper Joe Hart but they have shipped goals – 10 to be pre­cise. And, at the other end, they’ve only man­aged two. It’s too early to sack the man­ager, isn’t it? That’s what the sen­si­ble heads are say­ing but this is the Premier League, a crazy fac­tory of bonkers no­tions fu­elled by bil­lions of pounds. The board, on the whole, are sup­port­ive of their man but pa­tience will wear thin if con­fi­dence slips from the side. Watch the frenzy if, for ex­am­ple, Rafa Ben­itez leaves

New­cas­tle. They haven’t even played at home yet. That will be key. If they fail to gen­er­ate noise and ex­cite­ment at home, there’s a dan­ger of a re­peat of last sea­son where the scale of the place dwarfed West Ham’s pres­ence. West Ham can’t have an­other sea­son of sta­dium-as-al­ba­tross. Is Bilic per­son­ally re­silient enough to en­dure all this? Good ques­tion. He’s a charis­matic man who wears his heart on his sleeve. That sense of mo­men­tum, en­thu­si­asm and per­sonal loy­alty drove for­ward the club when he first ar­rived. But, on the flip­side, he ap­peared de­feated and down­beat ever since the drain­ing loss of Dim­itri Payet – and this trans­lates into the side. There’s a de­gree of con­fu­sion and dis­may. Ex­am­ples? Take Mark No­ble, the totemic cap­tain of the side and West Ham through and through. Since he left Up­ton Park he’s been a shadow of the player he once was. Are the play­ers be­hind him? Nor­mally, they are rock solid – there’s a lot of per­sonal af­fec­tion for the man. But the cracks are show­ing. Ex­am­ple? Robert Sn­od­grass, now on loan with As­ton Villa, claims Bilic didn’t know where to play him after his £10.2mil­lion move from Hull. What did he say? Sn­od­grass told Sky Sports: “Bilic said ‘Where do you want to play, on the left or right?’ I thought ‘You have just signed me and I have played on the right or be­hind the striker at Hull City all sea­son’. That was my de­but and alarm bells were ringing right away. I found it very strange.”

Sla­van Bilic

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