Does passionate Slaven Bilić have what it takes to keep West Brom up?

You could see the fire in Slaven Bilić’s eyes as he berated referee Mike Dean at half-time of West Bromwich Albion’s 5-2 defeat against Everton at Goodison Park. The sending off of Baggies full-back Kieran Gibbs had clearly enraged Bilić, who stormed across the pitch to remonstrate with Dean and make his feelings known. The red card was promptly brandished, and Bilić has since been charged with improper conduct. 

The Croatian is well-known as a manager who wears his heart on his sleeve, but perhaps the most worrying thing for Bilić should not be the performance of the referee, but the fact that West Brom have shipped eight goals in their opening two Premier League matches. It was always likely to be difficult for the Baggies as they readjusted to life back in the top flight, but they have looked considerably flaky at the back so far. 

In a season where preparation time has been limited because of the late finish of the previous campaign, West Brom are facing an uphill task to find their feet in the Premier League after an intense finish to the Championship season, where the West Midlands side only just scraped into the automatic promotion spots after Brentford failed to capitalise on their chance for promotion. 

Now, Bilić has a team that looks uneasy in their new surroundings, and the defence is clearly a problem area. With little time left in the transfer window, the pressure is on for Bilić to bring in reinforcements or risk a very difficult season for all involved. West Brom are far from the most impressive team to be promoted in recent seasons, and so it will take a real concerted effort to preserve their Premier League status, which will be difficult when you consider the intensive nature of the season ahead.

This is where Bilić’s Premier League experience will be vital, with the Croatian having managed West Ham for two and a half seasons, including a hugely successful 2015-16 campaign in which the Hammers qualified for the Europa League. Now, he’ll have his work cut out to prove that he can be successful with West Brom, who will be up against it each week in the betting exchange odds. 

But what Bilić’s spat with Mike Dean shows is that West Brom’s manager is clearly passionate about the job and will give absolutely everything to see the Baggies remain a Premier League side. He let his emotions get the better of him slightly at Goodison Park, after what was a clear red card, but West Brom fans will be pleased to see that their coach is willing to stick up for the team through thick and thin.

And it’s not all doom and gloom for the Baggies. Players like Grady Diangana, who signed from Bilić’s old side West Ham having been on loan at The Hawthorns last season, and Brazilian Matheus Pereira, are two exciting forward players who have the potential to light up the Premier League this season. If Bilić can get the best out of them and shore up West Brom’s leaky defence, they may just have a chance of avoiding the dreaded drop. 

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Pete White Pete White

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