Head-To-Head: Slaven Bilic vs Jurgen Kloppby Chloe Beresford / 03 November 2017, 16:20Tweet
They say that a picture speaks a thousand words, and the one captured by a quick-witted photographer after Crystal Palace striker Wilfried Zaha scored a 97th minute equaliser against West Ham did just that.
As two under-fire bosses went head-to-head last weekend, Hammers boss Slaven Bilic looked to have won the day. But as Roy Hodgson celebrated like he had just won a trophy, his counterpart sunk to his knees, head in hands, with his despair on show for all to see.
The Croatian had been on thin ice since the end of last season. 17 losses and more dropped points from winning positions in 16/17 than any other West Ham boss simply wasn’t good enough but - unlike so many others - he was given the benefit of the doubt in order to see the project through.
If it hadn’t been for a dramatic 3-2 comeback after having trailed Tottenham 2-0 in the Carabao Cup, he may not have even been on the bench for that crunch fixture against fellow strugglers Palace.
Yet with that look it was clear he knew he had used up almost all of his last chances when the Eagles took their share of the spoils. Things don’t get any easier this weekend either. West Ham will host Liverpool on Saturday evening, a contest which is likely to prove an interesting one for the neutral.
Jurgen Klopp is another man who has been feeling the heat this term, after the Merseysiders have taken just four wins from their opening ten Premier League matches. He may not be skating on such thin ice, but he doesn’t seem any closer to solving the defensive frailties that continue to be a problem for the Reds.
Indeed only five teams have conceded more than the 16 goals that have been fired in against Liverpool this season, a stat that belies their 6th placed league position. If only Klopp could find a way to sort out the defence without blunting his attack, then his side would be in a much more favourable position than they are currently. However discovering this balance does not seem like it is as easy as it sounds.
West Ham too are guilty of having defensive frailties, with only Stoke City (20), Everton (20) and Crystal Palace (21) beating their negative record of 19 goals conceded. Bilic was keen to point out where Saturday’s opponents Liverpool are having problems in that regard in his pre-match comments, perhaps in the hope he can gear his team up to exploit them.
“They are very open, want to press high and mainly look forward,” he told reporters.
“It is not very easy to be a centre-back in their team. The way Liverpool play, you have to give something. If you want to be more solid you maybe sit 10 yards deeper but they don’t play that way.”
The West Ham man can’t be blamed for wanting to deflect attention away from his current predicament, but - as the old saying goes - perhaps people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. A defeat for either boss would ramp up the pressure another notch, and could even see Bilic finally removed from his position in charge.
“There is no denying the 2-2 draw at Palace felt like a defeat, such was the way we conceded that late goal,” he continued.
“The inevitable criticism followed and my position was again in the spotlight.I understand the way it works these days and I admit we are not in a great position. I also understand that, should things go against us when we play Liverpool, there will be more of the same.”
“More of the same” implies that Slaven Bilic has got comfortable in his current predicament and - outwardly at least - is not admitting how precarious his situation really is. There are only so many second chances a person can have, and defeat to Liverpool may be his very last one.