Slaven Bilic, like many other managers, is facing the pressure for his own successes. West Ham’s poor start to the season, which cannot entirely be attributed to Bilic, has already given the manager a reason for concern.
Three points from five games, with 13 conceded, is relegation form. Challenging early fixtures have excused this to an extent, but there are problems with the team that cannot just be cast-off as strengths of the opposition. Defensive frailty as evident as this raises eyebrows up and down the league. The Irons will see teams set up differently against them.
To be under this pressure when only five games in is a little extreme. However, a club in West Ham’s current position are riddled with expectation. Demands from the fan base and the owners of repeated success is understandable, but it does not help the manager or the squad. Bilic is paying for his own over-achievement, it has set the benchmark so much higher.
Like a virus, this grapples down a manager when they are least expecting. Sport has no nostalgia, no long-term memory. Success last season is no longer to be congratulated, it is no longer relevant, but it is used as a yardstick for a manager.
An upper mid-table finish last season would have been a decent first season for Bilic. Considering initial expectations that itself would have been above and beyond. Rather he made the club dream, a second half of the season run saw West Ham peak through an ajar door into the top four, only for it to be slammed emphatically shut as their form dipped for the final few games of the season.
Following such a season, the heavily publicised stadium move has promoted ambitions for the club. Karren Brady, David Gold and David Sullivan have been vocal about the club competing throughout. West Ham are right to have such ambition with their current position and this was shown in the summer window. Signings of Andre Ayew, Simone Zaza and others reflected a club willing to spend to back Bilic ahead of a supposed Europa League campaign.
Acquisitions take time, though. Early season injuries have seen West Ham hardly able to play their strongest XI and players are yet to settle fully in the side. Adding quality does not mean immediate improvement in performance, nor does it always make a manager’s job a chunk easier.
A combination of factors have seen a shift in what is acceptable for West Ham. Bilic’s ability to attract players, produce a certain style of football and first year success has fast-tracked the process of an ambitious, growing club.
Paired with the move to the nation’s gloried Olympic Stadium, and the associated teething problems, West Ham are a club experiencing the difficulties of accelerated growth both on and off the field.