West Ham United, after drawing 1-1 with Romanian side Astra Giurgiu, return to their new home to face AFC Bournemouth in the first Premier League tie there on Sunday.
Slaven Bilic spoke to the press ahead of the clash with Eddie Howe’s Cherries…
Slaven, are you particularly tired today after a long journey, and how are you fitting training in during this two-day period?
SB: “I am a bit! But we knew the situation and we knew before the Chelsea game. We knew that we had five games until the international break, and there isn’t going to be a lot of training, just travelling. It started with Chelsea and we came back from Romania this morning and got home at around 5am. We are all in! Some guys who played yesterday are having regeneration, and the guys who stayed here are having a proper session.
“The game is in two days, so there are no days off. We have a big game, and after Bournemouth, we have a game against Man City, and then we can have a breather. It’s a tough situation but we wanted to be in the Europa League. We wanted to be in the position to qualify, and we are. It’s not job done but it’s a good result. Hopefully we’re going to make it.”
When you concede two late goals, does that make it more difficult?
SB: “With or without our tight schedule, it makes it difficult. We were disappointed to lose the game against Chelsea in this way, although they were the better team on the day. But I’ve played and watched many games where the better team loses. To be that close to a top side on their pitch makes it doubly disappointing. But it happened.
“Yesterday was bit different. We had a great chance to make it 2-0 just before their equaliser, and we didn’t make it and they scored after. Of course you are sad that you didn’t finish the job, but at the end of the day it was a good result – not the greatest one – but a good one. We have to beat them at home to come to the group stage of the Europa League, which we should be proud of if we achieve. Everyone is expecting us to, because of the teams we’re playing, but West Ham have not been in Europe a lot of times. We will give everything.”
With Andre Ayew, what’s the situation in terms of his timeline?
SB: “It’s not the first time when an injury of this scale has two opinions and solutions. One is surgery and one is without. We are going to speak to the medical staff and see what we think. I am not a doctor, so I will listen to them! It doesn’t have to be today that we decide. It’s not like he’s got a chance of playing against Bournemouth, sadly. He’s going to be out for not long long, but a longer time! We have time to make a proper decision.”
Will you sign someone to fill the gap that Andre leaves?
SB: “Not just because of Andre’s injury, no. He could be out for two and a half months, or four months, but he shouldn’t be out for longer than four months. It’s not ideal, of course, because we bought him and would like to play him every game, but as I said, he could be back this year and we just have to hope without moaning or crying. Is it a situation to buy just because of that? No, I’m not a fan of that.”
“Andre is very optimistic and he is good. He is professional and has approached even this injury, having spoke to many people, with optimism.”
In terms of bringing players in before the deadline, do you have two numbers; one for a squad in Europe, and one without Europe?
SB: “No, because you can’t have two squads. It would be easier in Europe to bring one or two players in because they would definitely get minutes, because you have at least six more games before Christmas. But on the other hand, it’s not a big difference in numbers. You can’t have two teams. One player might be the difference from being in Europe or not in Europe.”
What’s the most important thing you need to do to settle in the new Stadium?
SB: “We have spoken a number of times about the atmosphere. We have played two games there already. The best way to settle is to win. A win on Sunday hopefully will make it really feel like a warm home. Victories are what makes settling in much easier. It’s not intimidating until you make it intimidating with your quality. I felt and the guys felt that the atmosphere was really great in our two games there so far and you could feel the bond between the fans and the players.”
There were lots of goals last season between you and Bournemouth; are you expecting the same?
SB: “It was good for the neutrals, with seven goals in the game. I’m not expecting that again. We analysed those goals and from our point of view, they were cheap goals to concede. They forced us to make those mistakes, because they pressed very high. They had a good game, and we were not good in the first half. You can’t expect seven goals in many games these days, but if it happens, you expect it in the Premier League! I expect us to be much more solid in this game.”
Callum Wilson was linked with West Ham this summer – was there ever a bid for him?
SB: “No, there was never a bid. I don’t think a club in Europe has had as many players linked with them as West Ham! He is a really good player and he proved it last year against us, not just with his hat-trick, but with his quality all season.”