When I started writing this post, I fell under the misapprehension that we wouldn’t witness a managerial casualty at least until after tonight’s game. I was wrong.
Today, the Eagles decided to sack former Ajax boss, De Boer, after only five games and 77 days in charge. While Slaven Bilic’s tenure as West Ham manager pre-dates De Boer’s reign by quite some distance – two years to be exact – he could find himself experiencing the same sort of ruthlessness from the Irons’ owners should he fail to pick up three points against Huddersfield; birthday or no birthday.
The Croatian is under a lot of pressure after the Hammer’s dismal start to the new season, testing the fans’ and owners’ proclivity for optimism. Two of the club’s three losses have come against newly promoted Newcastle and a stuttering Southampton, conceding 10 goals in the process. What’s more, they haven’t even looked close to winning any of them.
The only beacon of light is that all three of their fixtures have come away from home, and we are yet to see how they play in front of
an electric a cordial London Stadium.
Optimistic Hammers will point to their form at the back end of last season as proof that they have what it takes to be a top-ten team, where they picked up vital points against Spurs, Everton, Stoke and Burnley. However, their lack of consistency doesn’t inspire much confidence; they racked up 17 losses and 9 draws during the 2016/2017 season.
This match is sat against the backdrop of a hilarious altercation between the Hammers’ board and Sporting Lisbon following West Ham’s failed attempt to sign William Carvalho. Sporting Lisbon president, Bruno de Carvalho, ingeniously labelled David Gold and Davild Sullivan as the “Dildo Brothers”, in reference to their previous occupation as soft porn entrepreneurs. This spat was exacerbated by Slaven Bilic, who stupidly admitted that he found the whole affair funny:
“The ‘Dildo Brothers’ it’s funny. It made me laugh,” he said.
However, he could be laughing on the other side of his face tonight should his team lose against a Huddersfield team who aren’t short of confidence. Indeed, the ‘Dildo Brothers’ will be looking for any excuse to shaft Bilic, and with the recent dismissal of De Boer still ringing in the air, this could be the opportunity they have been waiting for.
The crux of the confrontation between management and ownership seems to be about the club’s transfer policy. A poorly handled situation with Diafra Sakho left both player and manager red-faced, while a £23-million club-record transfer fee for Marko Arnautović prompted further sniggering among opposition fans; especially when the player picked up a first-half red card against The Saints. The latter will miss tonight’s game through suspension.
Yes, Bilic did bring in high-profile internationals like Hernandez, Joe Hart and Pablo Zabaleta, but doubt still remains whether they can address West Ham’s obvious issues. The stats make for hard reading: Joe Hart has failed to keep a clean sheet in his last 22 league appearances and has made fewer Premier League saves (9) than goals conceded (10). I expect Huddersfield to exploit this weakness between West Ham’s sticks. After all, the Premier League newbies have recorded a whopping 36.3% of passes in the attacking third this season.
After an unbeaten run of games against stiff competition, Huddersfield Town will be looking to further torment the team that currently props up the bottom of the Premier League. New Huddersfield signings, Abdelhamid Sabiri and Florent Hadergjonaj, could make their debuts, while Manuel Lanzini, Edimilson Fernandes and Andre Ayew were all injured on international duty.
West Ham forward Andy Carroll could make his first appearance of the season after a thigh injury, and the Hammers will rely on him if they should threaten Huddersfield’s goal mouth.
The Hammers have not lost their first four Premier League fixtures since 2010-11, when they went on to be relegated. I fear this season could be Déjà vu.