RBM: On a scale of 1-the clown in Stephen King's "It", how much does Romelu Lukaku scare you?
BTH: Well, our team just made Wahbi Khazri from Sunderland, who hadn't started since October, look like Messi, so the collective West Ham fan base expects Lukaku to score approximately 100 goals tomorrow. Seriously, the clown from "It" would be a welcome relief at this point. Do you have his number? We could use a right back.
Jose Fonte has looked a shell of himself since his move from Southampton, a number of key players are injured or coming back from injury , the captain, Mark Noble, is out with a suspension, and the only fit right back on roster that is speaking terms with the manager got a red card last week. Most West Ham fans seem to be assuming that Everton will put at least three or four past the shambling wreckage that is the defense.
RBM: Slaven Bilic looked like one of the better managers in the league last season, but it's safe to say this year has been a major regression. Is he on the hot seat?
BTH: In a word, yes. The board has constantly officially backed him in the press, while simultaneously linking articles in the "Media Watch" section of the official website about possible replacements and has had contract status updates leaked to favorite blogs and journalists. Roberto Mancini, who had been linked with the club before, was a guest of the board to watch Manchester City tear apart West Ham at home earlier in the season. The league match, not the FA Cup match, where City destroyed West Ham. A shame I have to clarify which beatdown from City that I am talking about, by the way.
Slaven Bilic is managing on borrowed time, more or less, with the board getting restless. The fans are split somewhat evenly on him, with a lot of people blaming the board for the chicken, um, parts that Bilic has been forced to make chicken salad with, but as the season has gone on and the team has looked even worse week after week, more and more fans are starting to question him.
Bilic has at least one thing going for him, that the board generally does not like to spend money that they don't have to spend, which is why the team gets dodgy loan deals and free transfers instead of actual transfers like a real football club. I don't think that Bilic will get fired in season because they would have to pay him extra, but at this point I think he will likely not be managing the team next season.
RBM: What does West Ham have left to play for this year?
Nothing, which is one of the reasons that it is a little confusing that a number of the kids aren't featuring more. The board wants the team to place as high as possible "for the fans" (not for the extra money or anything) but as long as the team doesn't finish in 18th, 19th or 20th place this season, I think most fans would be content with a bottom half finish if the younger players are given a chance to play. West Ham will stay up, not because they deserve to, but because of the sheer incompetence of some of the teams below them.
RBM: Do you think the team's form has been affected by the move to London Stadium?
BTH: Maybe the first few games, but it's kind of been an excuse for the poor season from the team. I think it's more of a case of the fans, in general, hating the move to the London Stadium and being disappointed in the results and the new stadium is a perfect scapegoat. The fans miss Upton Park, and the new stadium was going to bring glory, not a threat of relegation and a five game losing streak. A number of people complain, rightfully so, about the ticketing issues and the game-day experience, but that doesn't have a lot of impact on the play on the pitch.
RBM: West Ham had a fairly busy winter window, bringing in Robert Snodgrass and Jose Fonte. That said, what's the Hammers' biggest need this summer?
BTH: Same as it's been for a few windows now, a striker and a right back. Andy Carroll has a really awful record with injuries and can't be counted on to play more than 20 games a season at this point, and the dodgy loan deal for Jonathan Calleri and the loan deal for Simone Zaza obviously didn't get it done. The board promised a new striker last summer, and pretty much failed to deliver the goods. The team hasn't had a consistent right back since Guy Demel left the club, with Carl Jenkinson from Arsenal on loan at West Ham twice, with the board deciding the price that Arsenal wanted was too much after his first loan spell. Sam Byram is young and talented going forward, but his defense leaves a lot to be desired (see Manchester City league game as an example of what happens when he has to defend against above-average players) and he's been injured twice since his transfer from Leeds United last January.
To add to those needs, a lot of fans want a new ‘keeper and some depth on the wings and attacking midfielders. The team has a lot of great young central defenders coming through the ranks, so while the defense is awful right now, the team might not need to splash the cash on central defenders when the team has a few waiting in the wings that might be ready in a couple years.