Any club that makes four close season signings and all four pay off will inevitably have a good season. Slaven Bilic signed Dmitri Payet, Manuel Lanzini, Angelo Agbonna and Michail Antonio and they have all slotted seamlessly into the first team contributing immensely.
Payet with 9 goals 9 assists, Lanzini with 6 goals 2 assists and Antonio has 6 goals and 5 assists. That’s an astonishing 21 Premier League goals and 17 assists from 3 new signings at a combined cost of £30m. Bilic has probably achieved the best impact on a (in Premier League terms) minuscule budget of £30m.
Dimitri Payet stands out as the signing of the season at £10.6m from Olympic Marseille. He has become West Hams talisman and orchestrator of almost all their good attacking moves. Payet has carried the attacking threat and seems to thrive in his role as the talisman, he never shirks in his duties and takes the battle to the opponents.
The Centre Back Angelo Ogbonna has also been key in the 8 clean sheets, commanding the back 4 with his title winning nous and credentials from his last club Juventus. Ogbonna has strengthened the spine of the team and scored the all important winner against Liverpool in extra time in the FA Cup.
Most importantly for West Ham fans they are playing the “West Ham way” which is open expansive football that is attacking and aesthetically pleasing. The main criticism of the previous manager Sam Allardyce was his crude cynical style of play which home fans felt was boring and un-ambitious to watch.
West Hams last season at the Boleyn ground before their move to the Olympic Stadium has created a positive vibrant effervescent atmosphere, with most games sold out for people to get their last experience at the historic Boleyn ground. West Ham this season have averaged a 99.8% attendance record this season the highest in percentage terms in the Premier League.
Bilic was a stylish centre back in his time at Everton and West Ham in his 87 games in the Premier League. Bilic also has 44 Croatia caps scoring a handy 3 goals from centre back, helping them to the World Cup Semi Finals in 1998, losing to the eventual World Cup winners France.
Bilic has knitted together a good solid unit at West Ham, with players like goalkeeper Adrian and full back Aaron Cresswell having arguably their best seasons at West Ham. Mark Noble is also arguably playing his best football in his ten years at West Ham. There is a balance to the team and a growing belief in their methods, with their Quarter Final replay at the Boleyn ground against Man United in the FA Cup, they are still within a chance of winning a trophy.
With a very limited remit of just keeping West Ham in the Premier League from owners David Sullivan, David Gold and Karen Brady, Bilic has surpassed all expectations with their current 5th place. Bilic’s record at West Ham 42 games played Won 19, Drawn 15, and Lost 9 games with a win percentage (across all games) of 45% is mightily impressive.
Bilic speaks 4 languages Italian, English, German and his native Croatian, Bilic also holds a Law degree, and his open often brutal honesty has been a breath of fresh air in the Premier League, he steers clear of “manager speak” and gives open direct post match interviews.
Bilic with no previous managerial experience in the Premier League has taken to it like a duck to water. His managerial experience at Hadjuk Split, the Croatia national team, Lokomotiv Moscow and at Besiktas has held him in good stead.
Bilic deserves immense praise for both his style of football and his expert transfer signings which showcase both his intelligence and his tactical awareness and nous of solving West Hams problems in a single transfer window with a “mere £40m.”
In terms of the bigger picture and increasing the exposure of West Ham, in order to sell out the larger 70,000 Olympic Stadium, Bilic has delivered in a manner even the owners couldn’t have envisaged.