“José Mourinho accused West Ham United of playing ‘football from the 19th century’ to nullify Chelsea and the Portuguese claimed Sam Allardyce’s players had feigned injury and wasted time to secure their goalless draw on Wednesday.”
This was one of the many sensational comments made by rival managers on West Ham’s style of play under Sam Alladryce. The Gaffer had to face severe criticism as a result of his negative tactics from supporters and critics alike. Only 11 away goals were scored in the 2012-13 season which was the lowest amongst all the clubs in the league.
Though Big Sam was able to ensure that the club did not face the misery of relegation, the Club was never able to push on and finish in Europa League Spots at the end of the season which was the ultimate aim. Finishing 10th at the end of the 2012-13 season with nine home wins and only 3 away from home is an indication of that with the club finishing 13th and 12th at the end of the 2013-14 and 2014-15 season .
The Board of Directors were pressurized by constant concerns expressed by the supporters about the style of play and also his inability to finish at a respectable position as desired decided to give him the axe. The Club needed someone who could deliver attractive gameplay as desired by the fans while at the same tine deliver the Results.
Slaven Bilic was a footballer who enjoyed successful spells in Germany, England and Croatia. He played for West Ham and Everton while in England. He became the club record transfer signing in 1996 at West Ham when he made a 1.3 million move. He decided to reject a 4.5 million move to Everton in 1997 stating his desire to ensure that the club did not get relegated at the end of the season which endeared him to the fans. After retiring as a footballer he decided to try his hand at managing.
His time with Croatia was extremely successful enjoying praise from all corners of the footballing world. Though his time at Russia and Turkey did not match expectations, West Ham decided to take a gamble on him. Bilic Promoted players like Eduardo, Luka Modric and Corluka from the U-21 squad which is an indication that he had a keen eye for talent. Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard , Ashley Cole, Paul Conchesky, Joe Cole, John Terry were some of the young talented players who emerged from the West Ham Youth Academy but left in pursuit of better footballing opportunities at bigger clubs. Appointing Bilic was an indication that West Ham did not want to repeat the same mistakes again. Bilic decided to make changes to the squad bringing in players like Lanzini who was nicknamed ‘the jewel’ on a one year loan option and Ogbonna boosting the youth and beefing up the defence.
He got rid of players like Carlton Cole, Stewart Downing, Zarate, Kevin Nolan who were considered surplus opening up slots for young players like 16 year old Reece Oxford who impressed on – lookers with his abilities when he dominated Mezut Ozil on his debut . Carl Jenkinson came in on loan from Arsenal with left winger Michail Antonio moving in from Nottingham Forest.
The Transfer which actually caught everyone’s eye and was regarded as the bargain of the season was that of Dimitri Payet for 10.7 million pounds from Marseille. The Performances earned him plaudits from audiences and experts alike with his ability to score from free kicks and Create chances out of nothing earning a special mention.
“We’ve got Payet, Dimitri Payet” was chanted by the fans which is another indication of the impact he had in his first season. Bilic decided to bring in a new attacking approach and a comeback spirit with his squad. The same Club fans who gave a sigh of relief on being knocked out of EL qualifying playoffs considering it as a distraction avoided looked on with optimism as the players battled it out against opposition who usually dominated them.
With the new attacking threat that Payet and Antonio brought in, the team was never short of goals which was a big surprise for fans used to scoring the least number of goals and defending it out under Alladryce. Sakho put in good performances when given the opportunity in the absence of injury prone striker Andy Carroll.
The loud cheer that rung out in the stadium when Winston Reid headed the ball into the net with West Ham making a thrilling comeback against Manchester United in a 3-2 win strengthening their pursuit of a Europa League Spot spoke of the amount of support and popularity Bilic enjoyed amongst the same fans who were resigned to being content avoiding relegation just a season back.
There was a new positivity in the gameplay with the players no longer aiming to just block it out and kicking the ball upfield. There was been a steady increase in the number of shots recorded and accuracy also. (The Club recorded their first league double over Liverpool in 52 years, Carroll scored in 3 consecutive games with West Ham Recording a 15 game unbeaten run with the win).
The club achieved their highest points tally and their highest finish in the table since the 2001-02 season.
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