Slaven Bilic believes fourth place is a possibility for his West Ham side after they beat Watford 3-1 at Upton Park. The Hammers are sixth, three points adrift of Manchester United and four behind Arsenal who have a game in hand – against West Brom on Thursday – but the Hammers manager is not giving up hope.
“This was a decisive game,” Bilic said. “We said before the match, it will determine if we look up or, if we don’t win, look down. It is nice to have a five-point cushion [on Southampton in eighth]. But it is nice that we are three points behind Man United and that we close the gap on Manchester City even though it is huge.
“We can’t say Arsenal [will be easy to overtake]. But this isn’t over as well. We will give everything to try to win all four games and see where that takes us.”
Bilic denied that the pressure on Arsenal and Manchester United was greater on than it is on his club. “We have pressure as well. We are not in this situation every year. But it’s great pressure – positive pressure. This is the pressure that you are grateful for. And you should go to church and pray that you will have this pressure for the next 20 years!”
Bilic also said that events at Leicester City at the weekend – when a penalty was awarded for grappling – had an effect on the game at Upton Park which saw three spot-kicks awarded. “After Sunday, we can expect those kind of things,” he said. “That game had a huge impact. The first one – the holding – was for a couple of seconds, so it was a good decision.”
Bilic’s only gripe was that his side did not improve their goals for statistics. “We deserved to score more.”he said. “We could have got four or five more, been more lethal but we were not taking the Mickey in front of the goal so that’s good. If they had scored that [late] penalty we could have had some dodgy minutes at the end. But we wouldn’t have deserved that.”
For Quique Sanchez Flores, he maintains self-belief won’t be dented by defeat with a date at Wembley looming on Sunday when his team take on Crystal Palace in the FA Cup semi-final.
“We are definitely confident about Sunday,” the Watford manager said. “The application was very good from us. We conceded early and then it is tough to play against a tough team like West Ham. It’s not true that we are losing every time. We have won four games in the FA Cup. True, we are scoring less than before. We have some problems in attack but we have a solid defence. I’m very happy with the players. They are always competitive. I’m very happy with the situation. We have the opportunity to play a semi-final – amazing – we will enjoy it.”
The Spaniard did, though, bemoan the dismissal of his midfielder Nordin Amrabat who was sent off for a second bookable offence in the dying moments at Upton Park and is now unavailable for Sunday’s semi-final. “The impact is massive for us,” he said. “The second yellow card is too much.” He also admitted conceding penalties was a concern after his team gave away their fourth in two games. “The level of the refs is amazing but four penalties is too much against us.”