Slaven Speaks - Sunderland
West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic faced the media ahead of the Hammers’ home clash against Sunderland in the Premier League on Saturday.
The boss gave updates on Andre Ayew and Andy Carroll, as well as his formation thoughts for the match against the Black Cats.
Slaven, how good is it to see Andre Ayew back in training?
SB: “He looks good, and okay it was only a few sessions, but we are going to try and prepare him for games as quick as possible. But we don’t want something to happen in that process at the same time.
“It’s great that he is back. It’s difficult to judge when he’ll be back on the pitch. He’s improving in every session. He was out for a long time and as I said, we want him back, but is he ready for games at the moment? Probably not. He needs more time and intensity in training.
“I’m sure that it won’t be a long, long time now. He probably won’t be in Saturday’s squad.”
What about Andy Carroll – how far off is he?
SB: “It was a very strange injury that happened in a game in Romania. He stayed on the pitch for the whole game and we didn’t notice he’d got injured until the next day.
“Now, it’s longer than we had first thought. All I can say is that he’s working hard and is progressing, but it’s longer than expected.
“It’s not the speed we and he wanted, but hopefully soon he’ll be ready to train with us. I am speaking to him and the medical team every day about it.”
Are there any other concerns ahead of the game against Sunderland?
SB: “No. We still have two days and a couple of days before the game but at the moment, it’s only Cresswell who can’t be involved, because of the suspension, from the Palace squad.
“I said my opinion on his suspension after the game and we’re frustrated but there is nothing we can do about it. We are gutted, he is gutted. He showed how important he is for us in that game.
“We have cover, of course, because we have 25 players and a lot are very versatile. But if we are talking about the old, rigid way, we have a couple of genuine left-backs who are both out; Cresswell and Masuaku.
“A few of the guys can play, especially short term, in that position.”
Has the win changed the mood around the place?
SB: “Definitely. I hope that period for us is over now. You can talk, you can analyse, you be positive but the best thing that gets the confidence back is if you win and a game, especially with a clean sheet in a London derby.
“It was good in the camp two or three weeks ago. We didn’t stop training but of course it’s a better mood because the confidence is back, in a positive way.”
Sunderland come with pressure on them. Do you have sympathy with David Moyes, a manager with something hanging over him going into the game?
SB: “It’s a difficult job. It has proved that over the last couple of weeks. As a club, you can get out of that situation very quickly with a few wins.
“Of course, he is a terrific manager and he has done a terrific job long-term at Everton, and now he has difficulties with Sunderland, but he’s not the first one who has that experience with Sunderland recently. It’s nothing new for them.
“Is it down to him? No, I’m saying he is a great manager, a big name. The pressure is there and it comes with the territory.”
You played three central defenders at Crystal Palace. Are you likely to do that again even though you’ll be at home?
SB: “That formation, it’s not only because we wanted it to be more solid, but it lets our best players be on the ball in the best positions. If we stay in that formation depends on personnel we can use in the game.
“Of course, because Cresswell can’t play, it will affect it. It’s not ideal, but we are going to see; we have a few options.”
All football managers just look at the next game, but I’m sure you’re aware of the schedule after the Sunderland game. Does that increase the onus on winning this game, to give you some breathing space?
SB: “I know the schedule, but I know also that all we think about is the next game. It’s always the same in any schedule.
“I know we have Chelsea, Everton and Stoke, and it’s going to be extremely difficult, but then it was going to be difficult against Crystal Palace who are on fire on their home ground. We did it. So we are positive.
“We know that if we play as we played there, we know we have a chance.”