Slaven Bilic clinging on as West Ham consider availability of mid-season replacements

Matt Law
The Hammers want to have a replacement lined up before Bilic goes - West Ham United FC

Slaven Bilic is clinging to his West Ham United job as the club weigh up whether any of his potential replacements would be available mid-season.

And the Hammers could face a battle with Leicester City if they decide to sack Bilic and pursue one of their top targets, Manuel Pellegrini.

Friday night’s 3-0 defeat at home to Brighton has left Bilic on the brink and the Croatian may only have the games against Tottenham Hotspur, in the Carabao Cup, and Crystal Palace in the Premier League next Saturday to save his job.

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But complicating West Ham’s decision is the fact they do not want to follow Leicester’s example and sack a manager without having a replacement lined up.

Huddersfield Town’s David Wagner would be West Ham’s top target if Bilic left, but the German has already indicated that he would rather see out the season with the Terriers following interest from Leicester.

West Ham would face a battle with Leicester for Manuel Pellegrini's servicesCredit: AFP/Getty Images

Former Manchester City manager Pellegrini is also high on the list of candidates the Hammers would consider, but the Chilean could be hard to prize out of his lucrative Hebei China Fortune contract.

Pellegrini has the attraction of winning the Premier League title and League Cup during three years at City and also managed Real Madrid.

The 64-year-old is on the list of managers Leicester want to speak to about replacing Craig Shakespeare.

As revealed by Telegraph Sport, the Foxes have spoken to former Southampton manager Claude Puel while Sean Dyche and Roberto Mancini have been linked with the post.

Other than Wagner and Pellegrini, West Ham remain admirers of Rafa Benitez, who they almost appointed ahead of Bilic, but the takeover of Newcastle United could help persuade the Spaniard to stay put.

Benitez has already spoken about his excitement over the prospect of unlocking the “massive potential” of Newcastle with fresh financial backing.

Benitez has also been linked to the jobCredit: AFP/Getty Images

With Bilic in the final year of his contract, the Hammers would prefer to see out the season before deciding whether to make a change.

But that may not be possible if results do not significantly improve with the mood around the London Stadium turning angry on Friday night.

There was no emergency meeting called for Saturday, with co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold reluctant to make a knee-jerk decision. But the club are alarmed at the start to the season and, in particular, the form of Bilic’s big summer signings – especially Marko Arnautovic who has struggled since his move from Stoke City for a fee which could rise to £24million.

Arnautovic was booed off when he was substituted during the Brighton defeat and it was noted that he failed to get the better of a right-back, Bruno, who is 37 years old.

Marko Arnautovic has disappointed since his summer moveCredit:  REUTERS

There is a feeling within the club that the squad is better suited to playing with three central defenders, but Bilic is persisting with a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation to try and accommodate Arnautovic and another of his big signings, Javier Hernandez.

There are also ongoing concerns over the fitness of the squad, the training techniques used by Bilic and the injury record. It all points to a change being made, although Bilic was in a similarly difficult situation when he went to Palace last season, switched to three-at-the-back, and won.

Another concern is that, for the first time, Bilic appears unable to motivate the players and there was no response from them during the Brighton game.

Following the defeat to Brighton, Bilic said: “It is not a good situation and the board will do what they are going to do. It’s their decision … I have to say sorry to the fans. It’s not the first time. They deserve better than this.”

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