Ahead of the Hammers’ trip to Stamford Bridge on Saturday, Slaven Bilic held his pre-match press conference.
During the briefing, the manager fielded a range of questions from team news, facing Chelsea and going for a Champions League place...
What is the latest team-news ahead of the Chelsea game?
SB: “It’s good. We have James Tomkins and James Collins still out but they’re going to be back after the Chelsea game. Tomkins will start training tomorrow or today with us but it’s still too early for a game against Chelsea but after that we have a an international break so both of them should be available for the next game. All the rest are good. We have a good squad, we have a big squad now. As we expected, most of the players are back and that’s really good for us and it makes us even more confident.”
The Hammers are two points off top four, did you believe you would be challenging for a Champions League place when you first arrived here?
SB: “We are always trying to be positive. But as I told you, our season plan was to approach game by game and to try to win every game that we are playing and not thinking about where it will bring us. Now we are in the situation where we are standing good. There are still a lot of points to play for but we have a chance to finish real high but also there are a lot of teams below us queuing and our aim is to continue to play like this and pick up points and then hopefully it’s going to take us high.
How many points do you think it would take to achieve that goal?
SB: “I don’t know, I’m not using that kind of maths. All I know about England is that you have to reach 40 points to stay up! I don’t know how many you need to get in the Europa League or the Champions League or whatever. It’s just game by game and so far that kind of thinking has put us in a very good situation and to be fair in my opinion it is the only way that any club should think. Because you can’t go and play Chelsea and then expect three points against whoever…it doesn’t work like that. Because in any league, especially here, there are no guarantees. We are totally focused on the possibility of three points the day after tomorrow and try to get three or one and then it’s going to be one less game to go with hopefully an even better position.
Do you sometimes think what could have happened if you would have had a fully-fit squad all season – could you have even challenged for the title?
SB: “I told you that injury-wise we were in a really bad position in November and December when we were without six or seven players like Swansea away and West Brom home and Stoke home and Villa away but it was a very important period for us to gain confidence and character because we weren’t losing them. We were basically drawing them and we showed stubbornness and all that and that was very important. If those players were playing in those games we would probably or definitely have more chances to win but then on the other hand maybe that is the reason that we’re playing good now because some players had that little break and came back in January or February very fresh and practically like after pre-season. Definitely we were missing those players in that period.”
Is this a good time to play Chelsea?
SB: “Yes and no. They went out a couple of competitions last week. They were very positive so maybe they were more focused on the Champions League and the FA Cup but now they’re out maybe it’s harmed the confidence and atmosphere at their training ground. But on the other hand they are also thinking there’s nine games to go and if they click they can finish very, very high also. In that sense it’s not a great time because now they have only Premier League and make no mistake I’m expecting them to be really hungry and totally focused on the Premier League.”
Can you tell us about the latest situation regarding Manuel Lanzini?
SB: “Lanzini is a clear situation from the start. He came on loan from Al Jazira and we had an option and the contract is there so he’s our player and he’s happy here and we’re of course happy with him and we want him in the club for a long, long time. My staff decided long ago that we want to activate that option.”