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Risk for Reward: Is Bilic for Allardyce the first step in West Ham’s quest for glory?

Article by Tom Burford

It’s been almost a month now since Sam Allardyce left his post as manager of West Ham United, and the frequently used clichés such as “be careful what you wish for” & “Sam gives you stability” are beginning to die down. There’s no question that the vast majority of West Ham fans were in agreement that the resignation of Allardyce could only be a good thing for the football club.

But was it too hasty of the owners to let Sam go? Or was this the step that needed to be taken to make sure West Ham reach the level to deliver top quality, winning football in their 54,000 seater Olympic Stadium.

Sam’s turbulent 4 season campaign at the helm of the Hammers saw instant promotion via the play-offs from the Championship, along with 3 successive survival acts to keep West Ham on the path to Premier League Football at the Olympic Stadium. But much of the criticism aimed at Sam was about his negative tactics and seemingly finding it more important to avoid defeat than to actively try and win a game.

This is perhaps why they missed out on an automatic promotion spot in his first season, there were so many occasions where they’d try and sit on a 1-0 lead and get punished. Sam’s mantra of “respect the point” over whelmed the squad slightly, there were a lot of games West Ham drew in that season that they really could of won, but a slight lack of ambition meant they had to do it via the play-offs.

This became a common occurrence in the Premier League also, with West Ham allowing their opponents to have the majority of the possession in almost every game, home and away, trying to score a goal on the break. They never seemed to want to force the initiative themselves, but to wait for their opponents to make a mistake, whilst defending in vast numbers in front of their own goal.

The famous example was a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge in a league fixture in 2014. West Ham allowed Chelsea 72% possession and 39 attempts at goal, the Hammers had one.

This of course prompted Mourinho to brand West Ham’s style of play a “from the 19th century” to which Sam replied “he just can’t take it can he!? He just can’t take it that we’ve out-witted him, out-tacticed him”. Now I’ve only been watching football for about 20 years from the age of 6, but I don’t class sticking 11 men behind the ball, trying to stop your opponent scoring while offering next to nothing in attack as good tactics, I’d call it extremely lucky.

Be that as it may, Big Sam did everything that was asked of him during his tenure, and will only have improved his C.V. after this period. So why get rid of him? The small matter of a 54,000 seater Olympic Stadium on the horizon is a big reason.

I’ve still struggled to come to terms with the fact that some people believe that just because he’s never been relegated before, Sam is 100% nailed on to have kept West Ham in the top flight fourth time around, I just don’t buy this atall. 16 points from the last available 64 is without question serious relegation form, and a worrying descent from 4th position at Christmas.

I understand the financial ramifications of relegation these days, but just doing enough to survive at a club, that at this present time, should really be achieving top 8 every season is not good enough. That’s not delusional, that’s not bias, that’s a fact. The appointment of Slaven Bilic will go a long way to achieving that dream.

He’s got a very tough start in that his season begins in 2 weeks’ time, but being a self-confessed merchant of ‘total football’ as he explained to the club’s official website, this will go a long way to appeasing the fans that have put up with some dreadful football over the last 6 months.

Only the 15th manager in West Ham’s 120 year history, Bilic will bring a lot of European experience to go with his present knowledge of the Premier League when he was a player. His win percentages by far gazump Allardyce’s.

West Ham have appointed the best possible, realistic target on the market, a real statement of the chairmen’s intent. They’ve already dipped into the transfer market to sign young Spanish midfielder Pedro Obiang and have been tipped to acquire Dimitri Payet, Carl Jenkinson, Alex Song and potentially Charlie Austin. They’re beginning to put their ambitious plans into action, and with the new ground and a new style of football, West Ham could well be inviting the full capacity of the stadium on a regular basis, the increase in match-day revenue will increase dramatically.

If they get this project right, there is absolutely no reason why West Ham United can’t be one of the biggest teams in Europe.

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