Slaven Bilic will once again stand at the touchline in the London Stadium to manage an exciting possession-based team, but this time it will not be in the form of a West Ham manager.
Instead, he will rival his replacement, David Moyes. At the end of the match who will cheer his name? This much-anticipated return of Super-Slav to London Stadium comes this Saturday, January 25th, as the Fourth Round of the FA cup progresses with West Ham drawing West Bromwich Albion at Home.
Slaven is back in English football as manager to EFL Championship side West Bromwich Albion and has brought former assistant coach, West Ham player and teammate Julien Dicks to serve as the no-nonsense enforcer on his coaching staff.
Though West Brom sits at the top of the table of the EFL a recent dip in form with only 1 win of their last 8 league matches, leaves them precariously perched. They’ve been sustaining their lead through late won draws and losses of the teams below them.
This drop-in form coincides with the hamstring injury of West Ham loanee Grady Diangana in December and has put a halt to the team’s winning style, and the player’s enjoyment of first-team football.
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Diangana – now on the sidelines – came alive this season while playing as a consistent starter with the Baggies as Slaven has set him as a Left Winger in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Grady’s trickery, pace, and agility have partnered well with striker Robson-Kanu, Brazilian Matheus Pereira playing the number 10 role, and Matt Phillips on the right-wing.
The quick link-up play from this crafty foursome has left Championship rivals reeling from tightly formed, passing play boosting Diangana’s confidence and maturing his ability. It’s a formation and style that Manuel Pellegrini himself would be jealous of. And though Grady has scored a moderate 5 goals and 5 assists, he has been pivotal in the West Bromwich attacking third.
This drop-in form will seem like a nightmarish deja vu to Albion fans as the second half of their 18/19 season was similarly disrupted by the mid-season recall of Leicester loaned player Harvey Barnes, who also played on that same wing.
Like the Baggie’s previous manager Darren Moore, this loss of a key attacker will have Bilic in a state of anxiety pulling the roots out of his newly grown beard, as he watches his unbeatable side start to slip.
With Leeds United kicking at the heels of West Brom with a 1 point difference, and Fulham following close behind at a 5 point deficit it is highly unlikely that Slaven will want to risk his first team for the pursuit of the FA Cup over an automatic promotion to the Premier League.
Though there was frustration with the end of tenure at West Ham, Bilic will likely put league success over any West Ham revenge cup fantasies. The WBA management will also likely be pushing for automatic promotion as they were denied it last year when West Bromwich lost in the EFL play-off finals last season.
West Bromwich has lost out in both the FA Cup and Carabao Cup in the 4th round or sooner since relegation putting out reserve players, so as to sustain the onslaught of Championship matches while avoiding fatigue.
Enter newly re-adorned manager David Moyes who has been given the directive to provide West Ham fans with an exciting cup run, a growing defense, and a mindset to put out a strong first team at the London Stadium and West Ham will most likely come away with a win.
Though Slaven Bilic lost the confidence of many fans in the second season as manager, he never lost their love, as he spoke with honesty, fought with passion, and loved the badge. Accompanied by Dicks, there may very well be heard chanting from both sets of fans for the ever passionate former West Ham players.