Rewind 16 months. It’s May 10th 2016 and West Ham United have sent the beloved Boleyn Ground off with a thrilling win against Manchester United. Slaven Bilic is overcome with emotion and fans in East London are thrilled beyond measure.
After three years of watching Sam Allardyce’s teams hoof the ball forward the Hammers were once again playing free flowing attractive football. Slaven Bilic had brought back the West Ham way and Dimitri Payet was rocketing up the charts of the best players in Europe. It was so glorious, Sam was gone, goals poured in, David Sullivan even looked pleased in his Russian hat.
Bilic looked like the perfect man for the job. He was one of our own, he played attractive football, and our teams executed his plans to near perfection. He was winning in places West Ham hadn’t won in for years. The Emirates, Anfield, The Etihad, all saw defeats at the hands of Bilic’s Hammers. It was amazing being a West Ham fan.
Ok enough of those fond memories, back to reality.
West Ham are in the relegation fight and despite looking “better” recently they haven’t looked like a team that has it together. The heat on Slaven Bilic is boiling and it’s not going to cool down at all this season. Even ardent Bilic fans can’t argue that this team looks a mess and has been that way since he took over as manager.
I’m a Bilic fan, I think he’s engaging, honest, and a welcome change from Big Sam. However, he’s not a good manager. I had all the same rationalizations and excuses for Bilic as everyone else. The stadium move, the Payet situation, the injuries, and the retooling of the bigger teams are why last season fell short. Just remember how good Bilic was in 15/16 was the refrain from many in the West Ham world, he’ll get it figured out this season just give him the players.
Well it’s here six games in and plenty of new faces in positions of need. Javier Hernandez, Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaletta, and Marko Arnautovic are here. Players of good quality and yet nothing has changed. Our defense still looks unorganized, the central midfielders aren’t linking with the attackers, and we’re sitting in the relegation zone. I thought he could do it, I remembered how good we were in 15/16 and how great that team looked.
The more I’ve looked at it the more I’ve come to realize that 15/16 was the creation of one man and his name was not Slaven Bilic it was Dimitri Payet.
If you dig into the stats you realize just how important Payet was to that team. Sure, you can look at the spell when he was injured and get an idea. In eight games without Payet we won one lost two and drew five, for a total of eight points in eight games. Not great but it doesn’t really give you the true sense of how much Payet played in the team’s success.
I dug into the stats to find out how many points Payet contributed to that team. The way I figured it out was looking at when he scored goals or provided assists did that goal directly affect us winning, losing, or drawing. For example, the 1-0 win against Tottenham on 3/2/16. Michail Antonio scored the goal off of a Payet cross assist. So his assist directly gave us three points, without Payet we draw that game 0-0.
My analysis and math shows that Payet was directly responsible for 20 points in the 15/16 season, 20 points! Looking at that table we would go from 7th place with 62 points to 15th or 16th with 42 points and five above the drop.
It’s not quite that simple I realize but I think it certainly drives home the point that we caught lighting in a bottle in 2015/16. Sure, Bilic had some part in that by setting the team up to succeed with Payet in the line up.
However it is abundantly clear that Dimitri Payet played a much more direct role in the team’s success than Bilic.
Which leads me to the point of this piece. Slaven Bilic has ridden the wave of Dimitri Payet far too long. Without the magic frenchman Bilic would not be the manager of West Ham United right now.
In all reality he may have been sacked after 15/16 if we were as bad as statistics suggest we would have been without Payet. Even if he had made it to 16/17 he likely would have been sacked since he wouldn’t have had an amazing 15/16 season to fall back on.
Again, I really like Slaven the person and want him to succeed so badly, yet it is clear to me he should not be the manager of West Ham United. It’s evident he’s tactically deficient and can’t set up a defense to defend anything. He doesn’t understand where to play players, and from the sounds of things he gives his players an easy time in training. In addition to all of that I think he’s hampered the development of young talent at this club.
BTH writer Chad Hoy brought up Reece Oxford’s playing time in 15/16 and it deeply disturbed me.
After an amazing showing against Arsenal Bilic was singing Reece’s praises. He told the BBC:
After that game Reece played in two more games in August he wasn’t great and made mistakes that a 16 year old would make but he wasn’t bad either. Yet he went four months without making an appearance in the first team.
To me that’s ridiculous, he clearly had the ability to play at the level and yet Bilic had him ride the pine. It happened last year when certainly Reece Oxford could have played rather than signing Jose Fonte who was a dumpster fire. Even this season Declan Rice was our best player on the pitch for the starting games and yet makes one mistake and he’s been more or less banished to the bench again.
The patterns have been there since the very beginning of of his tenure. His defenses give up an average of almost 10 goals more than Sam Allardyce’s West Ham teams. Without Payet the team can’t create chances and rely too much on hoofing it to a striker. He plays players out of their natural and preferred positions. He hampers the development of young and promising talent. It’s everything that fans complained about with Sam Allardyce yet Bilic gets a pass because of 15/16 and he’s more likable.
That pass needs to end, 15/16 was a creation of Dimitri Payet and not Slaven Bilic.