West Ham’s manager search is in full swing and several names are constantly being linked with the vacant Boleyn Ground post.
But whoever we appoint is always going to be a gamble. With just one season left before we move to the Olympic Stadium it’s important we keep our Premier League status.
That’s going to be an even more difficult task with Europa League football to contend with as well, so whoever gets the job is going to have one hell of a job on their hands.
Yesterday we had a look at how Slaven Bilic did in charge of West Ham in the game, and the results were interestingly promising.
So now we move on to the next manager who is reportedly in talks with the club – Marcelo Bielsa.
As I did with Bilic in the first experiment, the following changes were made using the game’s editor to ensure it was as ‘realistic’ as possible…
- Removed out of contract players and staff who have already left the club over the last few weeks
- Set the club’s transfer budget to £25m to go inline with reports and David Sullivans claims of one or two big name signings this summer
- Darren Randolph has been added to the squad because we’ve signed him already
- Added us to the first qualifying round of the Europa League as a seeded team
- Did the necessary promotions and relegations in the Premier League
So, here’s how Bielsa got on…
Bielsa took advantage of the big pot of money available to him and boosted the squad with the addition of Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross and Fenerbahce defensive midfielder Mehmet Topal, spending a total of £16.5million.
Both signings were met with a mixed response from fans, which wasn’t overly surprising.
One of the biggest shocks was Bielsa’s decision to sell Mark Noble to Man United on transfer deadline day. That shock being that it was Man United that signed him. Fair play to Nobes, though.
In January, Winston Reid was flogged to Everton for a measly £700k, which well and truly annoyed the fans and the rest of the squad.
Bielsa stuck with an unusual 3-4-3 wide formation, which included three centre-halves, two wing-backs and two defensive midfielders.
That said, it was still supposed to be a relatively attacking formation, with both deep lying midfielders given licences to go forward when possible.
(The above screenshot was taken after a game and therefore has an XI that wouldn’t normally play, with it automatically selecting the the most ‘match fit’ players at that given time. This is just to show you the formation as an example)
Oh. So that wasn’t entirely expected. Bielsa’s West Ham battled against the drop for most of the season and struggled to put a decent run of results together.
The general feeling here is that the only reason the Hammers stayed up was because there were three ‘poorer’ teams in the division that season.
Too many draws probably made the season look a lot harder than it was. But draws aren’t wins, obviously.
Still, every cloud. At least we’ll be playing Premier League football in our first season in the Olympic Stadium. Just.
Capital One Cup
It was never a priority, but the Hammers crashed out of the Capital One Cup to Chelsea in the third round.
No surprise there, really.
The board had outlined a target of reaching the quarter-finals of the FA Cup at the very least, so it understandably didn’t go down too well with them or the fans when Bielsa’s side crashed out to Sheffield United at the first hurdle.
Of all the teams, it had to be Sheffield United.
Aside from the league, the Europa League was something of a priority and the board set Bielsa a target for reaching the group stages, which he did without any trouble at all.
But the Group Stage is where West Ham’s continental adventure ended after notching up just one win against En Avant de Guingamp.
That said, it was something of a Group of Death with Wolfsburg and Athletic Bilbao expectedly proving too strong for us.
Just two new faces in the squad, with a few going out. Both Shawcross and Topal had relatively decent debut seasons at the club, but it was the usual suspects who made the biggest impact.
Enner Valencia topped the scoring charts with 16 in all competitions, while Diafra Sakho and Morgan Amalfitano weren’t far behind with 12 each.
Stewart Downing also had a big impact with nine goals and 15 assists, and Aaron Cresswell was the highest rated performer with an average rating of 7.42.
Andy Carroll had a mare of a season, making just eight appearances with just a 13% win ratio, while Kevin Nolan didn’t make a single appearance.
Just a day after the final game of the season and Marcelo Bielsa was sacked by the club.
It didn’t come as much of a surprise considering the woeful league form and the two early cup exits. His overall season stats below…
A win percentage of just 31% isn’t great, while you can see drawing too many games was another big flaw of Bielsa’s.
The players had clearly struggled to take to Bielsa’s tactics, with the report above suggesting “the players had lost confidence as their manager.”
So the summer leading in to our first season in the Olympic Stadium would include a search for a new manager. Not ideal!
Stay tuned for our next experiments with Unai Emery and Frank de Boer.