Slaven Bilic looked like the loneliest man in London as he stood in his vast technical area while Liverpool tore his struggling West Ham United side apart on Saturday.
The Croatian came out fighting after their 4-1 defeat, however, insisting he was not “a broken man”. A second consecutive heavy home loss left West Ham perched precariously above the drop zone and an Everton win on Sunday would leave them in the bottom three entering the international break — traditionally a vulnerable time for managers.
Thousands of West Ham fans voted with their feet when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made it 3-1 in the 56th minute, just 55 seconds after Manuel Lanzini had given the Hammers hope.
After that Mohamed Salah grabbed his second for Liverpool and West Ham were fortunate not to concede five or six. Bilic said he would speak to West Ham’s owners but vowed not “to hide” when it was cheekily suggested by one reporter that he might want to turn off his mobile phone to avoid their call.
“I will speak to them when they call me,” the former Croatia national coach said. “I will face the consequences. “I’m strong and I never hide.”
Asked if he believed he could turn around West Ham’s season, Bilic said: “Of course I believe in myself, my staff, the players. I’ve come so far from a small country, first as a player then as a manager. I’m definitely not a broken man.
“I’m very strong. But the situation for West Ham is not good.” Liverpool’s first two goals, scored within two minutes midway through the first half by Salah and Joel Matip, both came from corners — the first a West Ham one which was cleared and 13 seconds later the ball ended up in the home net.
It looked a comical way to concede, but Bilic defended the set-up of his team at the set piece. “When you have a corner you want to score but also you need enough players at the back to stop the opponents doing what they want on the break. We had three (defenders) back but maybe not in the positions where they were meant to be.
“You can’t have four of five back for your own corner.” Bilic, whose first season in charge in 2015-16 saw West Ham challenge for Europe, blamed his side’s naivety for conceding a goal just after Manuel Lanzini had halved the deficit.
“At halftime, we wanted to be more dangerous up front and it worked, we got back to 2-1. But the third goal was naive. We needed some calmness to build again because there was a long time to go. Mentally the third goal was a killer.
“We are conceding too many goals in that way. I know they are working hard, it’s not about the effort, they are trying their best but it’s not enough at the moment.”
Asked again about his position, Bilic responded: “I’m not going to do a job interview. I take the bullets all the time but I’m a strong man and I believe in myself and my work.”