West Ham are in serious trouble, no argument required!
In addition, to the recent loss of Diafra Sakho, it looks like Michail Antonio and Aaron Cresswell may be injured. However, the ‘bigger picture’ is our major concern, and hence, this is the point of discussion in this article.
After the abject 4-1 thrashing in the EFL Cup against Manchester United, I’m seriously concerned whether Slav Bilic is in ‘full control’ and taking the right approach.
However, time will soon tell..
At present, he seems to be uncertain about formations from one game to the next, and in addition, I sense he sometimes panics during games, and tries to change the formation when he is feeling insecure – making his gesticulations and yelling out to players where to move.
I think he started out with a 3-5-2 formation, but it seemed to fall apart again, allowing an already rampant Man United side to totally dominate. Why on earth was Payet playing so far on the left? Payet’s facial expression seemed to say it all. He looked bewildered, disillusioned and somewhat uninterested at various times, which is a fairly good indicator of the low morale that our team is in at the moment.
After the 4-1 loss to Manchester United, one of Bilic’s first comments, was: “In young Ashley Fletcher, we have found the solution to all our striker problems.”
That comment seemed inappropriate, given the context of the game.
Of course it was pleasing to see Fletcher score his first goal for the club, and at times he looked quite sharp. However, I haven’t seen anything which makes me think that he would be better than a fit Sakho, Andre Ayew or even Andy Carroll. Such comments make you wonder where Slav’s thoughts are at the moment!
In addition to Bilic’s problems with formations, he continues to play a number of the guys out of their favoured positions. Antonio is the classic case, but I think Kouyate is getting sick of being stuck back in the center-back position. He is a natural box-to-box midfielder, who adds solidity to the midfield, which is weaker in his absence, and he is very useful moving forward,.
He seems to be frustrated playing so far back, and it may only be a matter of time before he throws the toys out.
Antonio’s absence from the right/left wing considerably diminishes the strength of our attack. In his favoured position he is not only very dangerous in assisting, but also a proven goalscorer in his own right. Even in Sakho’s short absence, our squad should be playing much better than we have done so far this season.
Where Slav’s managerial position is concerned, I feel that we should make an assessment no later than December 18th. By then we will have played Arsenal, Liverpool, Burnley and Hull. A fair and realistic expectation should see us gaining eight points from these games. If this happens, I’m certain that Bilic will be retained with the very big caveat – improvement!!
There is every chance that we will see some improvement after the return of Sakho, Cresswell and Antonio, followed by the injection of some new signings in January.
The Solution for Improvement
The first major problem that is in need of urgent solution is the formation structure. The second major problem relates to playing our current squad players in their best positions. The third relates to strengthening the squad by attracting a specialist right-back and one or two strikers during the January transfer window.
The second half of the season begins on January 3 with a home fixture against Manchester United. By the end of the transfer window we will then have 16 games remaining to ensure survival.
Despite the gloomy forecast, I still retain a modicum of optimism. I have taken a close look at the potential number of points that we should be able to obtain by the end of January, which equates to an approximate 29 points.
That is the point when we are likely to be at maximal strength following some astute signings in January. Allowing for a success rate between 33%, 50% or an optimistic 66% in those remaining 16 games, and based on the final positions from last season, we might finish anywhere between 8th and 14th position.
For those of my fellow West Ham supporters who may be more pessimistic, a poor 20% outcome should still allow us to reach that critical 40 points mark, enabling us to just avoid relegation. In order to provide some idea of our best starting line-up following the January window, I have included my dream team to achieve the best outcome possible (see diagram above).
This includes the attacking 4-3-3 formation, in which Bilic may be able to use with the best players available.
So, it may not be all that bad when the end cometh.