Manager on Matchday

Slaven Bilic


Slaven Bilic looks ahead to Saturday's Premier League fixture between Stoke City and his West Ham United...


Good morning everyone.

First, I would like to wish all the Hammers heading for Stoke City today a safe journey. We have again sold out our allocation of tickets and I am sure we will hear the 3,000 travelling supporters loud and clear at the bet365 Stadium.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a full squad to take to Stoke, as we have some injuries, but what I have found in the last few matches is that we have a lot of quality in the squad.

We have Mark Noble and Sam Byram back from suspension, while Robert Snodgrass and Sofiane Feghouli should be back after short-term injuries.

Some of the boys had knocks from the Everton game – Cheikhou Kouyate, Winston Reid, Arthur Masuaku and Diafra Sakho – and some players missed some training this week, but we’re going to see how they are and choose the team and the system from there.

So, with the team playing well against Everton last week and everyone who started that game being available, I have to think a lot about who will play from the kick-off, and who can make an impact from the bench.

For example, Howie played very good and Mark is back and he’s our captain, so we’re going to see, but it doesn’t have to be Howie who drops out, if anyone does. It could be another one, and I have decisions to make.

As a manager, you can have two players in the same position, and you need to make sure both of them are happy, even if one is playing more than the other. You also have to make sure both feel secure in the squad and that they have a chance to play.

Now, we have four games to go and it’s different. It’s time to leave your egos at home and not ask why certain players are playing more than others. Now, it’s totally about West Ham and giving 100 per cent commitment to the cause.

We were well organised and limited Everton because we approached the game like this last weekend, so we’re going to see if we can repeat that at Stoke.

Stoke also have quality and made big transfers. They have bought slowly over Mark Hughes’ four years there, bringing in two or three players here and there.

Their guys up front are always the dangerous ones. Marko Arnautovic is their most important player offensively, doing his thing to a high quality, very consistently, then you have Xherdan Shaqiri who can damage any defence in the world with one move.

They have Saido Berahino, Jon Walters, they have Peter Crouch and Wilfried Bony too, so they have numbers in attacking areas.

If we can keep it secure at the back, one player who can make the difference going forward to open up their defence is Manuel Lanzini.

I rate Manu extremely highly. He is a great midfield player and I told him that. We can talk about his vision, his dribbling, his carrying the ball, his one-twos, his shooting, but the key is that he training every day. That’s the core behind it – he is not injured, he has fitness and he has rhythm and because of that he has confidence.

He and every other player will be important to us on Saturday, no doubt about it.

Come on you Irons!