A Sergio Aguero brace and a late David Silva goal gave Manchester City their first away win in the Premier League this season. We played well in stages, but City’s superiority and the extra £300million of world class talent shone through in the end.
Sam Allardyce somewhat surprisingly went with the same starting XI and tactical approach as he did in the 3-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur two weeks ago, which proved to be a wrong move in the end. Of course, it would have been harsh to change a winning side, but approaching the game without a recognised striker, particularly at home, was a surprise.
Jussi Jaaskelainen kept the score modest with another good performance between the sticks, but our defence was unusually complacent in front of him, allowing Aguero to race through on goal for City’s opener and then let him lurk unmarked in the area to head home shortly after the restart.
Ricardo Vaz Te gave us hope seven minutes later with a superb overhead kick – his second in a West Ham shirt – but Silva’s curling effort ended any hope of us taking something from the game after Aguero again found too much space in the area for him to assist his Spanish teammate with a neat back heel.
We appeared to keep the ball well at times, particularly after Vaz Te scored, but there just wasn’t enough conviction up front. Crosses from Stewart Downing and Matt Jarvis were mainly met by one of City’s defenders rather a striker, and it was a common sight to see Kevin Nolan busting a gut from midfield to attempt to get on the end of one.
But City’s class really proved to be the cutting edge that was need for a side to take all three points, and they did just that.
Some will say we lost because we didn’t have a recognised striker on the field to start off with, others will put it down to City being the superior force.
As mentioned above, the difference in the game was the ability to take chances in the final third. We couldn’t do that, while City made it look easy at times.
Also, Sam Allardyce’s decision not to thrown on a striker when we were dominating possession at 2-1 and waiting until it was 3-1 to introduce Mladen Petric, is one that potentially ended our chances of taking something from the match.
During that period of play, we were getting the ball out regularly to the flanks and crosses were heading in to no man’s land in the middle of the box. We really, really needed someone capable of getting on the end of those balls, but by the time Petric was on the field to offer that, we’d already lost the game.
Did we deserve it?
Perhaps, yes. Not for the want of trying, though. We were giving City a good game until we fell asleep at the back to allow Aguero to open the scoring. Once City were in the lead, even if it was just by a single goal, it was always going to be difficult to get back in the game.
The inability to have that cutting edge in front of goal, as opposed to City’s ability to do so, cost us here. We played well, but City played twice as well. They deserved their win but, had it ended a draw, it probably would have been a fair result.
Who stood out for the Hammers?
In a game where most of our players were outclassed by a set of some of the best players in the world, it was difficult to pick out our best performers.
However, Mark Noble worked extremely hard in midfield and linked up very well with Ravel Morrison throughout. It could be argued that Noble has been one of our most consistent performers this season. He has stood out in the midfield so far this season and he was probably one of our best players on Saturday.
Stewart Downing played well, too. If we had a striker on the field for 90 minutes, he probably would have got one or two assists. HIs delivery was good and was exactly what we’ve been looking for. With Downing in that kind of form, Andy Carroll‘s return can’t come quick enough.
A trip to Swansea City next Sunday is one that isn’t too encouraging after they thrahsed Sunderland 4-0 at the Liberty Stadium at the weekend. They’re beginning to find form this season and have always been hard to beat in their own back yard, so we’re going to have to be at our very best to beat Laudrup’s side.
How should Allardyce approach the game? He’ll need to start with a striker on the field, and Petric should get his first Hammers start. With a striker on the pitch, and the way we now know we’re capable of playing, we can beat anyone on our day.