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 a 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.
One of the manager’s we’re supposedly talking to is Slaven Bilic, who is widely regarded as the biggest gamble of the lot.
So I booted up my copy of Football Manager 2015, made Slaven Bilic manager of West Ham and simulated an entire season to see how he’d get on.
Before starting I put West Ham in the Europa League first qualifying round, removed the players and staff who have left over the last two weeks (including loans like Carl Jenkinson and Alex Song) and added Darren Randolph to the squad.
David Sullivan has admitted a few big names will be signed this summer, with reports suggesting he’ll make £25million available for the new manager to spend, so I also set a transfer kitty of £25m to reflect that.
Then I simply added Bilic as manager and simulated the season to get a pretty decent reflection of what we might expect from him.
The idea was to make the situation as realistic as possible, which is why all the above was done before starting.
And the results are very, very interesting. Here’s how Bilic got on…
Despite having £25million available to bring in reinforcements and build a squad capable of competing in Europe, as well as domestically, Bilic didn’t fancy doing to much to the squad and only spent £7million on Crystal Palace’s Joel Ward.
But he didn’t sell anyone, so the squad was fairly large when you factor in youngsters.
Bilic went with an attacking 4-4-1-1 formation and stuck with it for the entire campaign.
Bilic guided us to a pretty decent eight place in the league, but a total of 13 draws over the course of the season probably prevented us from a top six finish.
Still not at any point during the season were we in danger of a relegation battle and we go in to the Olympic Stadium as a top eight club.
The season started pretty well, with two wins and five draws from our opening seven games, but then rest of the campaign lack consistent form. Our best run of games came in March when we won four games on the bounce, though they all came against Norwich, Crystal Palace, Swansea and Leicester.
Capital One Cup
The League Cup was never going to be priority, but you wonder whether a decent run could’ve happened had we not met Man United in the fourth round.
Leyton Orient’s hatred towards us grew stronger, though, after we beat them 3-1 won at the Boleyn Ground in the third round.
Having seen off Watford and Cardiff in the third and fourth rounds respectively, hopes of a good run in the FA Cup were ended by Arsenal in the fifth round.
So we cruised in to the group stages after going through four rounds of qualifiers, seeing off Bondby 4-0 on aggregate in the final play-off.
But a group of death pretty much ended our hopes of success in Europe. Villarreal and Wolfsburg ran away with the group, while we could only muster up two victories from six, both coming against Azerbaijan outfit Qarabag Agdam.
With just two new faces (if you include Randolph) in the squad before the season began, Bilic turned to youth on a number of occasions to help with squad rotation, but some luck with injuries over the season helped massively.
Diafra Sakho ended the season with 23 goals, while Morgan Amalfitano was probably the surprise packed of the campaign after netting 15.
Stuart Downing also impressed by scoring 10 and assisting 16 over 55 appearances.
The biggest let down of the season was Andy Carroll, who scored just three goals in 18 appearances, and with the team winning just 11% of the games in which he featured in.
Overall it was a pretty successful season. Bilic improved on the 12th place Allardyce left us in and gave us a decent run in Europe, even if it did end at the group stage.
We go in to the Olympic Stadium stronger and in the perfect position to build on that.
The only negatives are that he refused to strengthen the squad further than just signing Joel Ward, and he drew way too many games.
Stay tuned for similar experiments with Marcelo Bielsa, Unai Emery and Frank de Boer.