Last Friday night’s (20 Oct.) home loss to Brighton cast an ominous shadow over under-fire West Ham manager, Slaven Bilic.
Results went their way, however, with Stoke and Everton losing to keep the Hammers just above the relegation zone. But performances have been poor and the East London club have only won two, scoring eight and conceding 17.
Pressure has been mounting on Bilic since late last season and the criticism has continued into the new campaign, with reports suggesting the West Ham board met to discuss the Croatian’s future.
The West Ham way
Hammers fans have often criticised their managers of late for not playing the ‘West Ham way’. Clearly, whatever the style of play, losing games is not it.
Even when Sam Allardyce was doing well in charge, the long ball tactics he has been accused of playing made no allies among the West Ham faithful.
Whom then should they turn to if Slaven Bilic is eventually sacked?
Premier League experience
Do the board turn to a manager who has already managed and experienced the rigours of the Premier League?
Walter Mazzarri and Aitor Karanka both undertook a season in the top-flight and are both free agents having been dismissed from Watford and Middlesbrough, respectively.
The former’s coaching prowess at Inter made him a hot target for Watford but he failed to excite. Mazzarri oversaw a poor season that left the Hornets just one place and six points above the relegation zone.
Likewise, Karanka did not manage the step up to the Premier League and his defensively solid but blunt side were relegated.
Although the latter’s defensive surety might be a good nod, his failure to produce quality attacking football over the course of the season will surely come to blows with the high-intensity, guns-blazing gusto that is the ‘West Ham way’.
Two managers who could throw their names into the hat are former Hammers, Sam Allardyce and Alan Pardew.
Big Sam stepped down from football after a last, relatively successful, hurrah at Crystal Palace. So he is unlikely to push for a swift return to management. Football ‘retirements’, however, are often short-lived.
Despite the transfer controversy that dogged Pardew’s first stint as West Ham boss, 35% of West Ham fans polled on Twitter favoured the Englishman to take over as manager.
A big question mark sits above him though when it comes to the second half of the season. His impressive openings with both Palace and Newcastle came to an abrupt end after Christmas.
West Ham could swoop for one of the three Premier League managerial casualties this season.
Ronald Koeman has only recently found himself without a job and could look to jump straight back in at the helm. His supposed lack of empathy with the fans, however, could prove a black mark against his name, especially when it comes to the passionate Hammers fans.
Craig Shakespeare unsurprisingly lost his job as Leicester manager, as nothing is surprising after sacking the title-winning Claudio Ranieri. An equally surprising 19% of WHU fans polled would see him installed as manager, despite his slim experience.
The first to meet a sticky end this season was Frank de Boer as he was given only a paltry four games to prove his mettle.
His possession based style of play could win fans in East London, but his failure to guide the Eagles to a point, or even a goal, are more likely to make him enemies before he starts.
Two managers have emerged as bookies favourites to replace Bilic, should he be sacked: Manuel Pellegrini and Roberto Mancini.
Both are currently managing out east, with Hebei China Fortune and Zenit St Petersburg, respectively.
Both also have Premier League experience, having each guided Manchester City to the Premier League title during their respective spells in charge.
The pair have strong credentials and would bring attacking play and a more solid defence to West Ham but, perhaps most importantly, they would bring points; Pellegrini has an overall win percentage of 51.3% and Mancini tops that with 55.48%.
David Moyes, although an outsider, can be dismissed first as he is more than likely to either make a return to Everton or make the switch to international with his native Scotland.
The other two running below the radar are arguably the managers West Ham fans most want to see in charge. Of the two polls conducted, Thomas Tuchel and Laurent Blanc gained over 40% of the vote in each.
Both are currently unemployed and neither have managed in the Premier League. Blanc is the more experienced having stocked an impressive silverware cabinet boasting four Ligue 1 titles and 11 domestic cups.
Tuchel’s attacking flair helped Borussia Dortmund continue their marauding play after Jurgen Klopp’s departure. He lifted the German domestic cup as well as racking up a highly impressive win percentage of 61.76%.
So who to pick?
If any current available manager were to personify the ‘West Ham way’ then it would be Thomas Tuchel and, for what it’s worth, this writer would have to throw their wholehearted support behind the German.
The current unemployed list is bristling with talent and it would be extremely hard to pick a manager from them, especially if you add the much mentioned Pellegrini and Mancini.
Whoever potentially replaces Bilic will have a tough job on their hands. They will have to turn around results, performances and mind-sets at the London Stadium.
The ‘West Ham way’ needs to return and the fans are dying to see world class attacking football played at their world class stadium.
Bilic made some good signings but hasn’t had them gelling yet. In doing so, however, he has equipped any potential replacement with an arsenal of talent.
The fans have been calling for his head and the loss to Brighton built the impending steps to the guillotine, now it’s up to the owners to drop the scythe. If whisperings are to be believed, though, he isn’t going to be sacked just yet.
Watch this space.