For missed chances throughout the 90 minutes, Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham United were punished by Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City at London Stadium on Saturday afternoon to the tune of 0-4 to slip to their first Premier League defeat in over a month. Join us as we analyse Five Massive Moments from the surprisingly even encounter.
Pellegrini Makes Critical Masuaku Error
Our first Massive Moment from two days ago in East London is one that occurred before the game between two sides that would start and end the day in the same position, 13th and first respectively, had even kicked off.
It comes in the form of a crucial tactical decision made by Pellegrini in his pre-match preparations to make two changes to the West Ham starting Xl from the draw with Huddersfield Town last time out. One of them was forced, with suspended Robert Snodgrass being replaced by arguably their best performer on the day, Michail Antonio, but the other wasn’t.
This one, to many’s surprise, saw Aaron Cresswell, who had started the last two matches ahead of Arthur Masuaku, drop out of the Xl in favour of the Democratic Republic of Congo international. The change, to go with the more attack-minded left-back, was a statement of intent from the veteran Chilean gaffer.
However, it didn’t pay off, leaving the Hammers severely exposed on the left side in the first half and City with a flank they could exploit, getting in behind the defence each time. The reason for this being that Masuaku was producing one of the worst performances of his two years and three months in Claret & Blue.
The full-back offered next to nothing going forward, not completing or even attempting a single dribble or interception, but at the back, things were much worse, still. The defender allowed Raheem Sterling’s cross to deflect off him and set up David Silva to open the scoring, as well as losing his marker twice to allow the visitors to double and triple their lead. He was substituted for Cresswell at half-time on an afternoon to forget.
Super Silva Puts West Ham Behind
It would be the overwhelmingly poor quality of Masuaku’s performance and more specifically, his lack of alertness and closing down that led to our next Massive Moment, the breaking of the deadlock in Stratford.
After an opening ten minutes that had seen half-chances at both ends, with both teams adopting very attacking game plans from the start, the hosts were pushing to open the scoring in a league match for the sixth time this season and second time this month.
It was this pushing that cost them dearly, with City always ready to punish sides on the counter-attack if they can’t take their chances, a common theme in this match. And when Felipe Anderson lost the ball in his own half in the 11th minute, it was inevitable.
Guardiola’s men, as they always do, broke hard with Kyle Walker advancing deep into the East Londoners’ half and shifting the ball onto Sterling, the man who’s been involved in the most goals in the PL this campaign, to face up to Masuaku.
The defender allowed the England international to attempt a cross, something that he shouldn’t have done, even if he was a tad unfortunate that the ball deflected off his right foot and perfectly into the path of Spain legend Silva to flick past Lukasz Fabianski. It had taken City just 11 minutes to hit the front.
Sterling Pounces To Double Advantage
A team like the Citizens, who have broken nearly 20 Premier League records since Guardiola’s arrival in the summer of 2016, are hard enough to face at the start of the match when the scores are level, let alone when they have the momentum of taking the lead.
It was always going to be a difficult task for the side that have failed to recover from any losing positions this term to take full points and equally, have thrown away the most from winning positions, to get back from any kind of deficit. And it was made even tougher by our third Massive Moment.
Following going a goal down in a match for the eighth time in all competitions under Pellegrini, the boss that led the Citizens to their second PL title win in 2014, a period of survival ensued for the Irons.
Under immense pressure in a rare period of the game where they were all but hemmed into their own half, the home side could last all of eight minutes against the highest scoring attack in PL history last season, with them doubling their advantage just shy of the 20-minute mark.
On the left flank, the returning Leroy Sane had the beating of veteran ex-City right-back Pablo Zabaleta for pace and was able to get beyond him, crossing low into the danger area. Having wriggled free of the dumbfounded Masuaku, Sterling was there to tap home and follow an assist with a goal, giving his team a cushion.
Sane Sends Man City Out Of Sight
If the Manchester club’s second of the afternoon provided them with a two-goal cushion, their third essentially put the match beyond all doubt comfortably before referee Andre Marriner’s half-time whistle, forming our penultimate Massive Moment.
Of the four goals conceded on the day, this one would have been the most frustrating for Pellegrini, as it came straight after a spell in the game where his side had enjoyed the better chances.
A change of formation from the 64-year-old for the first time this side of the September international break saw two strikers fielded, with Antonio making his first start in the league since mid-September, alongside talisman Marko Arnautovic.
Both spurned opportunities to get the Hammers back into the game, making it 2-1, the former even testing out Ederson in a usual quiet 90 minutes for the Brazilian international. But failing and allowing the visiting team an opportunity to triple their lead prior to half-time.
This was one they could take full advantage of in simple fashion, with Fernandinho picking out a long ball over the head of Masuaku for the unmarked Sterling to bring down and ship to Sane. The German international could too turn goal-maker to goalscorer by wrongfooting both Fabian Balbuena and Fabianski and putting Blue Moon more or less out of sight.
Antonio Fails To Get Hammers Back In The Game
Having seen out the rest of the first half without conceding any further and heading into the break with their biggest deficit of the campaign thus far, Pellegrini’s men sought to improve, if they could, in the second period.
This was, in part, due to the replacement of Masuaku with Cresswell at half-time, which shored up the left flank and provided a platform for them to attack freely without as much worry of conceding more and turning a defeat into a humiliation.
Through this all-around better performance after half-time, the Irons were able to create a chance that was so clear-cut, it had to be taken, one they weren’t going to see the like of against a team of City’s quality again for a long time.
It involved West Ham giving Blue Moon a taste of their own medicine by counter-attacking on them to near-deadly effect, doing everything right apart from finishing, with Antonio the guilty party. He wasn’t able to find his first league goal since February.
The golden opportunity the ex-England striker sent begging was one that was created by the excellent pass of substitute Javier Hernandez in the wake of a foul on the breaking Pedro Obiang. The ball sent Antonio clean through one-on-one with Ederson and he could beat him, only to see his low and powerful effort cannon off the post and behind for a goal-kick, summing up the East Londoners’ afternoon.
So, now that we’ve well and truly analysed the Five Massive Moments as Pellegrini’s West Ham lost an unbeaten run of three matches in the Premier League, will we be reliving some more positive Massive Moments come this time next week? After the Hammers have visited Newcastle United in the league? Join us once again, then, to find out.
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