West Brom 2019/20 preview: The Slaven Bilic era
After a lot of optimism regarding promotion back to the Premier League, West Bromwich Albion’s season took a wild and unfortunate turn after the club parted ways with Darren Moore. The Englishman was a clear fan favourite at the Hawthorns and his departure had its negative turn.
Caretaker manager James Shan kept them in the exact position that the Baggies were in before Moore’s departure but his inability to get them over the line through the playoffs meant that the club had to look for a fresh face.
West Brom announced the appointment of Slaven Bilic on the 13th of June and this could well begin a new era at the club. The Baggies must aim to return to the top-flight as quickly as possible and Bilic’s arrival could make the difference from last season to the next.
Bilic was relatively unknown as a manager at club level before he took the West Ham job four years ago. The Croatian wasn’t a new face by any means at Boleyn Park, having played for the Hammers back in 1996.
Bilic’s appointment back then was certainly a gamble, considering the little experience he had before but the gamble certainly paid off in his very first season. The Hammers finished seventh in the league which was a club record and Bilic was lauded by many for his fantastic achievement.
The Croatian’s life as the Hammers’ boss wasn’t meant to be, however. His second season in charge turned out to be a disastrous one. After beating the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham in his debut campaign, Bilic’s team slumped in the next, causing him to lose his job.
Bilic’s only other role as a manager came with Saudi side Al-Ittihad earlier last year but his bad luck continued as he was axed just five months after his appointment. The former Besiktas boss managed just three wins out of a possible 15 but that should have no bearing for Baggies fans ahead of next season.
In his hugely successful debut season with West Ham, Bilic’s biggest positive was how he got the Hammers to work as a team. West Ham were widely regarded as the side who would sit back and hit on the counter-attack with long balls but the Croatian was a breath of fresh air.
West Ham played some of the most beautiful styles of football which was rewarded with a deserved club record seventh-place finish in the Premier League.
Bilic got the Hammers to defend as a team and attack as a team which was something almost unheard of for West Ham fans over the years. The Croatian used all his players to perfection while not being scared to tweak the formation at any moment.
The Hammers either played a 4-2-3-1 or a flat 4-3-3 with the latter being Bilic’s most successful formation. His side took every opportunity to attack but, at the same time, were hugely disciplined when without possession.
A midfield pivot of Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate complimented each other brilliantly while Bilic’s star man Dimitri Payet took control of the game from a number 10 role with the confidence of the midfield duo behind to protect him.
Bilic was far more successful with his 4-3-3 formation where he played a front three of Payet, Andy Carroll and Michail Antonio. The two wingers were instructed to cut inside which opened up a ton of space for the two full-backs.
The two full-backs were the club’s most important players in Bilic’s system. A quick one-two with the inside forwards gave them enough space to exploit down the line while but the variation in the movement of the full-back and his respective winger was what troubled teams the most.
The two central defenders were given a risk-free role, where the instructions were clear – either pass it out of the back or kick the ball long to bring someone like Andy Carroll into play.
The former Newcastle man’s ability to hold up the play was instrumental in Payet’s success, as it allowed him time and space to take control.
Bilic’s discipline saw everyone in the team get behind the ball apart from Payet and Carroll. This allowed the Hammers to resist most of the pressure from the opposition before setting the two advanced players free to cause serious damage.
What can West Brom expect?
The Baggies will see a whole new style of football to what they have witnessed before with the likes of Shan, Moore and Tony Pulis. West Brom would look a lot bolder on the ball in the attack and most importantly, they will play as a team.
Bilic is capable of installing a sense of togetherness on the pitch, allowing the side to work relentlessly both with and without the ball.
The full-backs will have a lot of work to do up and down the pitch and their combination play with their respective wide men will play a massive part in the attack. A variation of short passes, quick interlinking play combined with deadly crosses from either side would make them tough to stop.
A compact defensive line, with the midfielders in front of the central defenders dropping deep to provide additional cover, will make them a solid side and they can expect to concede a lot lesser.
All in all, Baggies fans can be really optimistic about what’s in front of them and Slaven Bilic’s appointment could potentially be the decision that could take them back to where they want to be – the Premier League.