After yet another humiliating performance at home, even Bilic’s biggest fans realised it was time to go for the Croat. A 4-1 home defeat to Liverpool proved to be the final nail in the coffin as West Ham parted company with Slaven Bilic on Monday.
There’s no doubt that during his two and a quarter years in charge, his first season will be seen as his most enjoyable. The 2015/16 campaign under Bilic saw West Ham finish in 7th place with a record points tally of 62, meaning West Ham secured European qualification for only the third time in sixteen years. Finishing just four points behind the Champions League places, and reaching the FA Cup quarter final, West Ham had the perfect ‘Farewell Boleyn’ season.
Most impressive was their record vs the ‘big’ teams, as the Hammers picked up four points (out of a possible six) against Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City, they did the double over Liverpool (6 points) and managed three points off Tottenham.
After managing to keep hold of star players Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini, confidence was sky high going into their first season at the London stadium. However, the glitz and glam of European football didn’t last long as West Ham were dumped out of the Europa League in the third qualifying round by Romanian side Astra Girgui for the second season running.
The recruitment in the Summer was nothing short of a joke. The defensive issues were resolved by signing Alvaro Arbeloa, who lasted three games and stubbornly playing our top goal scorer Michail Antonio at right back, despite it being clear he cannot defend. We relied on hopeless Simone Zaza up front, who failed to score in his eight games at the club. Midfielders Havard Nordveit, Sofiane Feghouli and Gokham Tore, made more of a negative impact if anything, therefore they were sold at the end of or during the season.
In the league, results were just as bad. Conceding goals for fun was Bilic’s problem all season, with heavy defeats at home especially to Watford, Manchester City (twice), Southampton, Liverpool, Arsenal etc raising serious questions of Bilic’s tactics and hold of the dressing room. A horrible season occurred as the Hammers narrowly avoided relegation. A direct contrast from the season before.
The fans came together to support Bilic when the Dimitri Payet saga occurred and the Croat dealt with the situation impeccably, earning the respect of every supporter. After Payet refused to play, West Ham put on arguably their best performance of the season at home to Crystal Palace, with the fans rejoicing in the ‘Super Slav’ chant that made the London Stadium rock.
Therefore, because of the lack of backing Bilic received and the mid-season disaster of losing your talisman, the fans supported Bilic throughout the season and were mostly delighted when the owners confirmed he’d be at the club the following year.
After being backed by the board financially, Slaven had money to spend and on paper recruited well. Going against the previous strategy of cheap unknown European names, they chose to recruit well-known experienced Premier League players. The impressive names coming in, such as former Premier League winners Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta and Javier Hernandez, filled in positions West Ham were weakest. Signing Arnautovic was always a gamble but there was no doubt talent was there.
However, despite all the hype around the Hammers new stars, again the team got off to a dismal start. Losing their first three games and shipping in a ridiculous ten goals to Manchester United, newly promoted Newcastle and Southampton the pressure mounted on Bilic and fans heads began to turn, including mine.
A memorable 3-2 comeback win over arch-rivals Spurs in the Caraboa cup, merely painted over the cracks in what has been a joke of a campaign.
Losing three-nil at home to Brighton and then squandering leads late on to Burnley and Crystal Palace, mean West Ham sit just a point above the drop zone in 17th. A relegation fight will be on the cards and we did not leave our historic home to come to a ‘world class stadium’ to fight to stay above water.
Slaven Bilic will always be a West Ham legend and fan favourite because of his passion and love for the club. However, since he has been in charge, the club has regressed from a mid-table side to relegation battlers. The memory of that ‘Farewell Boleyn’ season under Bilic will remain in every West Ham fans hearts but unfortunately the right decision had to be made.
Do you agree, West Ham fans? What are your lasting memories of the Slaven Bilic era? Let us know in the comments below!