West Ham have finally sacked Slaven Bilic but the man firmly expected to take over, David Moyes, could turn out to be an appointment that costs the Hammers their Premier League status. Ben McAleer explains...
As it conspired, a limp 4-1 home loss to Liverpool proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back. The West Ham board had a number of opportunities to relieve Slaven Bilic of his duties at the London Stadium, but the disappointing defeat to the Reds tipped the Hammers head honchos over the edge, with the Croat sacked on Monday morning.
It's been a lengthy stay of execution for Bilic, who had a win ratio of just 37.8% during his time in east London.
The Hammers now have 10 points after 11 Premier League matches for the first time since the 2010/11 season - they were relegated to the Championship that campaign.
As we head into the final international break of 2017, West Ham sit just one point from safety, yet the performances under Bilic have limped from disaster to disaster. The 3-2 win at Tottenham in the Carabao Cup was an exception to the rule, yet his side were disjointed and devoid of ideas at both ends of the pitch.
Easy to understand West Ham's relegation odds
While a new manager may give West Ham a much-needed shot in the arm, they remain fourth favourites for relegation at 3.60.
Ultimately, Bilic's tactical shortcomings were the real reason for his departure, though he wasn't helped by a board that failing to back him sufficiently in the transfer market. That being said, even with the tools provided for him, Bilic failed to make it work after a bright start to life in the capital. West Ham's defensive deficiencies stemmed from a lack of work on the training pitch.
They have committed more errors that have resulted in an opposition goal (25) than any other Premier League team since he took over the West Ham reins and he showed no signs that he was the man to turn their fortunes around. With his contract up at the end of the season anyway, the latest he was going to leave is June, but a dire set of performances helped speed up the process. The only problem is where do West Ham go from here.
Moyes the red hot favourite to succeed Bilic
David Moyes is the overwhelming favourite to succeed Bilic - he's 1/20 on the Betfair Sportsbook following reports that he's already been approached and is willing to accept the job - but if he is the answer, then heaven forbid what the question is.
"Moyes would make West Ham harder to beat." Danny Murphy said on Saturday night's Match of the Day. Murphy must be aware that Moyes' Sunderland finished bottom of the Premier League last season, 16 points from safety, having conceded the third most goals (69) in England's top tier. They were saved time and time again by Jordan Pickford's excellent outings between the sticks as the Black Cats, like West Ham this season, churned out appalling showing after appalling showing.
Disastrous season with Sunderland seems lost on Hammers hierarchy
Worryingly for the West Ham support is that the board seem to be heeding no warning over Moyes' previous exploits. It could well work out for the Hammers, but the odds are very much stacked against them now.
The Scot's appointment would also suggest a lack of direction by the club's hierarchy, with fans very much demanding they play the 'West Ham Way'. Moyes proved with Sunderland he is neither a pragmatic manager nor one willing to alter his tactics for the good of the team. His Black Cats side resembled that of West Ham at the weekend, with the former Manchester United boss unable to inspire the side to turn the results around that culminated in Sunderland's relegation.
The lack of character shown when they concede a goal is a mental obstacle that needs to be overcome, yet getting the better of that hurdle feels more mountainous with each passing week. Bilic evidently lost the respect of the players, who looked as though they no longer wished to fight for their manager.
While Moyes was a success with Everton, but without a trophy to show for his efforts, his approach feels outdated and given the way he spoke of his Sunderland team in January - "I'd be kidding if I said the players we are going to bring in will make a big difference" - results are unlikely to improve should he implement such a negative mindset and hope to pass that off as realism.
Is it already too late?
This is a concerning time for West Ham, who need to avoid relegation to reap the rewards of the huge financial windfall that comes with keeping their head above water. You only have to look at Sunderland in the Championship this season to note the perils of dropping down a division and the difficulty that comes with trying to bounce back.
That being said, Bilic's horse had run its course at the London Stadium and change was required in order to help stave off relegation. The fear now is that this change is coming too late to help the team out of their current predicament.