A care-worn Slaven Bilic is fast coming to the end of his tether. “We can’t continue like this. We can’t,” he said after Saturday’s 5-1 humiliation by London rivals Arsenal played out in front of a half-empty stadium following supporters’ early exit.
The likeable Croatian may be considering his own early exit as it is from such catastrophes that sackings may come. He is now second favourite to be the next to leave his post, only topped by Bob Bradley. He has leapfrogged Crystal Palace’s Alan Pardew and Hull’s Mike Phelan as the grind of bad news continues.
He said: “The expectations were so high. There has been a lot of change – new stadium, training ground, new players. Maybe we relax a bit. But this is now December and we need to get back. I can talk until the end but any phrases are not important.”
To a significant extent, he sparked those expectations. It may appear, when the season’s done, that West Ham’s final spell at the Boleyn Ground was not the beginning of a resurgence but a stroke of fortune. Saturday marked six months since their departure.
It may be that Sam Allardyce’s guaranteed 10th place was the realistic “mission accomplished” of the former Hammers boss.
The answer may not come in the next match – a testing trip to Liverpool at Anfield next week where a point would be a triumph. The answer for Bilic and the supporters about what this inconsistent team actually is may come in the following games against Burnley and Hull City.
Six points could lift West Ham out of the relegation scrabble and may be enough to save Bilic in a club keen for stability and not known for rash decisions over the manager.
He said: “[My future] is not a question for me. I don’t think about that. What is going to happen with this. Or how many more games I have until your next contract talks, your sacking, whatever. I don’t think that way. I feel positive, I feel very brave as a person and as a coach and as a manager.”
He can feel positive about Andy Carroll’s return – and consolation goal. Finally, there is someone who can get on the end of Dimitri Payet’s crosses (if the striker stays healthy). He may feel positive about shipping out some of the summer failings, if only because they stand testament to the dreadful start to the season.
But the headache that will keep the manager awake at night is the defence, beset by injury and lack of organisation, leaking goals and presenting the new London Stadium as a “gimme” for visiting teams.
Bilic told the club's website : “I don’t want to feel like this, I want to go home and enjoy my evening with my family. I feel bad. Of course it affects my private life and I believe that it affects the players’ private life. Of course it does. We are not happy.”