The finger of blame was firmly pointed at left-back Arthur Masuaku as Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham United were blown away by Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City inside the opening 34 minutes of their Premier League matchup at London Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The result was expected by many, with even the premier league betting sites offering very tight odds on anything other than a City victory in London.
With the Democratic Republic of Congo making three critical errors that led directly to Citizens goals in the opening stages after being named in the starting Xl for the first time in three matches, it’s no surprise that he was blamed for the visitors all but wrapping things up before half-time. Today, we’re going to analyse Masuaku’s trio of mistakes and how they handed the game to City on a silver platter.
The First Goal
Following a shaky start on the left side of Pellegrini’s customary defensive four, Guardiola’s men soon realised that they could easily exploit their right-hand flank and looked to break down the right at any available opportunity. On 10 minutes in what was an even clash at that stage, they launched a counter-attack.
Right-back Kyle Walker was slipped away to use his excellent pace and run at the West Ham defence. As you can see in the below image, like all the images in this statistics driven tactical analysis, instead of closing the England man down, Masuaku is back-peddling away from him, giving him the freedom of East London.
This leads Walker to pick out a simple pass to another player not properly dealt with by the left-back, although you could argue he should have support from winger Felipe Anderson now, Raheem Sterling. Masuaku allows the Three Lions man to take the ball in his stride and enter the danger area that is the box.
The African commits one of the biggest crimes in defensive play, allowing the attacker to get his cross away, with the likes of danger men David Silva and Sergio Aguero waiting in the middle. Below, we can see the delivery on its way in, having deflected off the right leg of Masuaku.
While the horrific deflection that dumbfounded two Hammers defenders and set up Silva perfectly to stroke the ball past Lukasz Fabianski and into the far corner was unfortunate for Masuaku, he should have dealt with the danger much earlier. Had the No26 closed down Walker initially and not allowed Sterling space or a cross, things would have been much different.
The Second Goal
The first goal of this encounter between the league’s 13th-placed side and the leaders was always going to be pivotal and usually already without, the reigning champions were always going to be deadly once they got that little bit of momentum from breaking the deadlock. It was always a case of when and not if, a second would arrive.
However, once again, Masuaku made it much easier for Blue Moon to find. Although, they did launch the second of four goal-scoring attacks over the course of the 90 minutes down the left flank, being guarded by veteran and ex-Citizen Pablo Zabaleta. Below, we see Leroy Sane receiving the ball from Silva’s short pass.
Sane always had the beating of the Argentine City club legend and the German international is able to infiltrate the Irons box, gearing up to shoot a low ball across the face of goal. At the top of the image, we can already see Sterling getting away from Masuaku, who doesn’t see him due to being distracted by Aguero.
Before the excellent low ball is even halfway to its destination, the boot of Sterling, the Englishman is clear of Masuaku and the defender is never going to recover and stop him tapping in for one of the easier strikes of his esteemed career so far.
Sterling finishes easily under pressure which proved too little too late from Masuaku and we can see him wheeling away in celebration of doubling his team’s lead, below. Centre-back Issa Diop is already on the case of the more attack-minded full-back and rightly so, he had failed to see the man he was marking until it was too late, committing the cardinal sin of losing track of him and leaving Pellegrini’s men with a mountain to climb.
The Third Goal
If you thought Masuaku’s afternoon, an afternoon where he needed to impress to gain sole possession of the left-back position from Aaron Cresswell, couldn’t get any worse. You thought wrong, with the Citizens effectively ending the clash as a contest in the 34th minute and leaving him red-faced, once more.
In the wake of an impressive period of pressure from the hosts in which they should have pulled at least one goal back, Blue Moon were able to get back on the front foot and go in search of a third. In the centre, play is switched sideways to Fernandinho and as he assesses his options, as you can see, Masuaku is too busy pointing out Aguero to notice what’s going on behind him, sound familiar?
The Brazil international spots the run of Sterling, going undetected by Masuaku once again and launches a ball over the top to him. As you can see, the ball is still en-route to the England man but he is already in position to receive it. It still doesn’t look like the left-back has spotted him, at this point.
A ball that should have been cut out and never given the option of being played if Masuaku had been doing his job properly, finds Sterling perfectly and he has the time to bring it down. For the second time in the match, he fails to cut out the former Liverpool man’s cross and as they say, the rest is history.
With a fake shot on his right foot, the recipient of the volleyed delivery and scorer of City’s fourth in injury time, Sane, takes Fabian Balbuena and shot-stopper Fabianski out of the game, before stroking into the back of a half-empty net, below. In almost a carbon copy of the opener, Masuaku makes the same mistakes and it costs Pellegrini’s men dearly.
In conclusion, our statistical tactical analysis today has found that Masuaku was to blame for Saturday’s visitors to Stratford racing three ahead and putting the game to bed in the first half by constantly repeating the same errors and failing to learn from his mistakes.
The former French youth international was more than deserving of being substituted for the aforementioned Cresswell at half-time and the change did bring an improvement to the East Londoners. However, it was like closing the stable door after the horse had already bolted. Masuaku is likely to be punished further by being immediately dropped for next Saturday’s trip to Newcastle United following yet another reminder that his defensive game needs serious work, to compete at this level.
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