Following a disappointing start to the Premier League season and a 3-2 home defeat by Tottenham Hotspur at the London Stadium, West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic was under huge pressure to deliver a good performance and three points when Swansea City visited east London in the club’s previous top flight fixture.
The Telegraph went as far as saying anything but a win would mean that the Croatian’s job was on the line, and it was no surprise after a tough 14 months or so.
While Bilic is a largely popular figure among the Hammers faithful having featured for them as a player, the results he has delivered since the move to the London Stadium at the start of the 2016/17 campaign have been nothing short of poor.
The Irons had the 16th best home record in the Premier League last term, while only Southampton, Middlesbrough and Sunderland scored fewer goals than the 19 they did on their own patch.
Bilic led West Ham to an 11th-placed finish and it was plain for all to see during the summer that there must be an improvement and a push for European football this time around.
Also entering into the final year of his contract, the 49-year-old has plenty to prove and will be trying to show that he deserves to stay on at the London Stadium next season and beyond.
The summer additions of Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta, Marko Arnautovic and Javier Hernandez certainly looked impressive on paper, and it would have had supporters excited to see what their team could achieve.
The fact that the Hammers began the current campaign with three straight away matches after the 2017 World Athletics Championships were held at their ground during the summer certainly wasn’t helpful, but the performances on the road haven’t boosted the case for Bilic to stay.
West Ham looked lethargic and pedestrian in the 4-0 defeat to Manchester United on the opening day of the season at Old Trafford, while they were equally poor in the first half against Southampton at St Mary’s the following week.
A real lack of energy and determination was evident, although they did improve in the second half and were unfortunate not to pick up a point even though they had 10 men for the large majority of the game after Arnautovic saw red before the break.
The 3-1 loss to newly-promoted Newcastle United left Bilic under pressure and potentially on the brink, before a win and a draw against Huddersfield Town and West Bromwich Albion gave him a little bit of breathing space again.
While the 3-2 scoreline against their arch London rivals Spurs didn’t look too bad to those who hadn’t watched, the fact was they found themselves 3-0 down after an hour and it was only really the fact that Mauricio Pochettino’s men saw Serge Aurier dismissed that they made a late fight of things.
Subsequently, the manager, the players and the fans all knew how big the clash against Swansea was – especially with the two-week international break that followed giving the West Ham hierarchy the perfect opportunity to bring in a new manager.
Bilic needed three points and he needed an impressive and committed performance on the pitch from all of his players.
With club-record signing Arnautovic a late absentee because of illness, it meant that the Irons lined up in a more standard 4-4-2 formation with Andy Carroll partnering Hernandez up top.
The fact that the Mexican – who is arguably the club’s best player – has been pushed out wide to accommodate Carroll in recent weeks, rather than playing in the more natural position where he has proven to be a natural goalscorer throughout his career, has not proven popular among the supporters and the former Manchester United man has unsurprisingly appeared frustrated at times.
While everyone involved with West Ham would have wanted a strong start against the Swans, it just didn’t happen and they were second best in the first half, with the players being booed off at half-time.
Bilic looked as though he potentially had 45 minutes to save himself, and with little improvement after the interval, he replaced Javier Hernandez and Andre Ayew with Arthur Masuaku and Diafra Sakho, which was met with another chorus of disapproval from the London Stadium faithful.
The game looked to be petering out to a goalless draw before Masuaku found Sakho with a cross and the Senegal international slid home the winner, much to the relief of the home support and the Croatian manager.
While the three points were on the board, another below-par showing was hardly a sign that the Irons players are ready to fight to keep Bilic in charge.
With their next three Premier League fixtures coming against Burnley, Brighton and Hove Albion and Crystal Palace, West Ham look to have the perfect opportunity to put some points on the board and move themselves up the table.
However, the defeats to Newcastle and Southampton, who scored three of their five league goals this season against the Irons, hardly breeds confidence that the side will take maximum points from such a crucial run of matches.
To boost their chances of doing well during that period and pushing for a spot in the top half of the table and beyond this season, the West Ham board need to make a change now because it is clear that the club under Bilic has become a little stale and stagnant, and there is little sign of the improvement that is required on the pitch.