The future of West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic has been in the balance for a while now, and defeat against Liverpool at the London Stadium on Saturday evening could prove to be the final nail in his coffin.
The Croatian has been under huge pressure ever since the club has moved to their new home at the beginning of the 2016/17 campaign, with the performances and results they picked up at the Boleyn Ground rarely being replicated at the London Stadium.
Things have certainly taken a turn for the worse this term though, and Bilic would have counted himself lucky to keep his job following the humiliating 3-0 home defeat by Brighton and Hove Albion last month.
The 49-year-old was given the opportunity to turn things around – probably until the upcoming international break when the board will have more time to sort out a replacement if that’s the road they decide they want to go down – and he got off to a decent start against Tottenham at Wembley in the Carabao Cup.
The Irons came from 2-0 down at half-time to win 3-2 and advance to the quarter-finals of the competitions, and it should have boosted the confidence and set them up nicely for the clash against bottom-of-the-table Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park last weekend.
The east London outfit looked to be cruising to their first Premier League away win of the season as they took a 2-0 lead, but it was their turn to surrender their advantage with Wilfried Zaha scoring a 96th minute equaliser to break West Ham hearts.
That collapse wasn’t enough to see Bilic go, but that could change after the weekend – especially with former Irons boss Sam Allardyce being heavily linked with the vacant Everton job.
While he wasn’t always the most popular figure during his four years in charge of West Ham, you know what you’re going to get with the 63-year-old – effective football and guaranteed survival.
Considering the situation the club is in right now and with little sign of improvement on the pitch or that the players are really playing for their manager’s future, the east London outfit could probably do a lot worse than by re-appointing Allardyce – even as a short-term fix – seeing as it can be difficult to get someone who isn’t unattached at this stage of the season.
While there would be some West Ham supporters that would be against the former England boss’ return because his style of football perhaps doesn’t fit into ‘the West Ham way’ philosophy, those same fans would probably admit they generally enjoyed life more as an Irons follower then than they do now.
When you compare the records of the two managers, there actually isn’t a lot of difference either and they certainly have taken much of a forward step under Bilic’s leadership.
Allardyce managed a total of 181 West Ham matches in just under four years with the club, winning 68 and losing 67 with overall win percentage of 37.6%.
Coming into the clash against Liverpool on Saturday, Bilic has a marginally better percentage of 38.18% from 110 games at the helm, but it is only marginal.
While West Ham finished seventh in the Premier League in the 2015/16 campaign with 62 points, it was an anomaly when you look at both Allardyce’s and Bilic’s time in charge of the club.
The former registered 10th, 13th and 12th-placed finishes in the top flight, while the seventh under Bilic was followed up by an 11th-placed finish term.
The final tally of 45 points was less than in two of Allardyce’s seasons, and the Irons certainly don’t look to be on course to even do that well this term considering they have nine points with more than a quarter of the campaign gone.
Perhaps most telling is the goals against column when comparing the two managers in the Premier League.
While they finished 11th last season, West Ham conceded 64 times – compared to 53, 51 and 47 in the Premier League under Allardyce – and the fact that they have let in 19 in 10 top flight matches this season is hardly encouraging.
With Bilic likely to go if the Irons lose to Liverpool on Saturday, the board should look to a familiar face if they want a manager who will steady the ship and tighten them up defensively, and Allardyce can do all of those things to keep the club away from what is currently looking like a guaranteed relegation battle.