‘Super’ Slav has been much under the spotlight this week following our last gasp defeat to out of form Bournemouth. Many criticized his decision to continue with Kouyaté in our right back position. However, Kouyaté’s debut in the position helped earn the Hammers a win away at Southampton. Our goal difference since Kouyaté has played at right back is also +1, so does Slav have a point?

It is clear that Bilic is looking for a right back who can both show strength and an aerial presence at the back, but also a player who can get forward and cause the opposition problems in attack. These are the modern wingbacks, hugely popular in the Premier League but also more difficult to come by. Players such as Kyle Walker and Nathanial Clyne are growing in value, whilst other clubs are aiming to convert players to the role. A successful example is Manchester United’s shifting of Antonio Valencia to right back, offering plenty of pace and power whilst being able to defend effectively. This seems the point to why Bilic has selected both Michail Antonio and Cheikhou Kouyaté to take on the role.

Whilst both Antonio and Kouyaté’s build and speed make them ideal in theory for this position, it baffles me for a number of reasons:

1) Sam Byram. The 23-year-old, 6ft right back/right winger meets most of the criteria set out above. He’s quick, fairly strong and at 6 foot offers a tall presence from full back. Despite some setbacks including being relatively injury prone and regularly picks up yellow cards, Byram is consistently overlooked. He’s yet to really have a run in the team since his arrival from Leeds in January 2016. Why is Slav refusing to put this square peg into the square hole?

2) Key players out of position. Kouyate and Antonio are vital in their primary roles. Antonio is our top scorer this season and his attacking presence cannot be sacrificed in an attempt to cure our defensive frailties. Kouyate last season was the key to our counter-attacking abilities. He could break, carrying the ball from defense into attack quickly, drawing players on and causing havoc. Bilic must believe this would be possible from a right back position, however, his responsibilities defensively have held him back and limited his talents carrying the ball. This doesn’t appear to be popular with the fans or indeed the players. Kouyaté and Antonio have both come out and admitted how they preferred their traditional positions. This worries me in terms of morale and in terms of loyalty and desire from two of our key players.

3) Defensive experience. We know our defense has had a number of problems this season. This surely cannot help solves our issues. Despite the players being able to offer more of an attacking threat, the players are clearly being targeted by opposing teams when on the offensive. It took Watford just 3 minutes to slip Zarate in behind Kouyate, causing him to clumsily bring down the ex-West Ham player. Surely a more experienced defender could solve our defensive problems and play a lesser role in attack.

4) Sign someone new? Slav has had two windows in which to fill the position and has failed to do so in either. Whilst Arbeloa is an experienced player, he offers neither of the attributes desired by Bilic and as a result has became left out and frustrated by the lack of opportunities this season. Whether it is the lack of funding or the stubbornness to cope without, the Croatian is facing real questions regarding the position and will continue to do so if the position is not filled before next season.

Evidence of Bilic’s stubborn nature does not end at right back. I appreciate that players need time and might be there to play behind the scenes. His decisions to consistently pick captain Mark Noble are also under scrutiny. This one is more complicated for me. I believe a captain on the field it vital and I think Mark Noble is perfect for the role in terms of his personality and hunger on the field. However, if I had to pick my perfect West Ham midfield I would probably not include Mark Noble. On FIFA for example (I know it’s just a game…) I will play Obiang and Kouyaté sitting, with Lanzini playing CAM just in front. Whilst he’s a great penalty taker and has a good passing stat he’s slow and not particularly strong, offering little in terms of going forward or in defense. This bares a resemblance to the Kevin Nolan situation under Big Sam. Fans criticized Sam and turned on Nolan when Sam refused to drop his captain despite a string of poor performances. I really hope this will not be the case for Mark Noble who deserves time and respect from the fans. This isn’t to say that Bilic can rest Noble when games do not favor the player in terms of tactics or opposition. A solution I think would be popular, but not in Slav’s plans.

Whatever the reasoning behind some of these decisions, we must not forget that Bilic is the paid professional and the decision maker. We will have to continue and support both the manager and the club… even if it is baffling to some of us!