As I waited with my first cup of coffee for the Twitter release of the starting lineups, I came to an unpleasant conclusion. Much like West Ham, I started the season full of adrenaline and hope. I looked forward to every match, and had genuine belief we could get a result. Even after a loss I was able to find the positives. But now, much like Sam Allardyce has reverted to type, so have I. Instead of optimism and excitement, I am back to relying on the two feelings that have dominated my West Ham experience for over 20 years.
Fear and relief.
Yeah, it’s a bit dramatic. Sorry. But we all have our own internal wiring when it comes to our club and that’s mine. I’m just running out the string. I’m on the beach. I’m actually looking forward to the silly season, where I can create any West Ham reality in my head. After watching today’s game, can you really blame me? Since I don’t want to re-live every detail of today’s game anymore than you want to read them, I’m changing formats today.
FIRST HALF SYNOPSIS.
We were awful. Passes were sprayed all over the pitch, rarely to anyone in particular. On the few occasions the ball did travel from one West Ham player to another, the player on the receiving end did nothing with it other than hand it back over to Manchester City. Enner Valencia is far better playing in the middle as a striker, so Sam played him out wide. Downing is far better playing at the tip of the midfield diamond, so Sam played him out wide as well. While Carlton Cole is a very strong man, he is not stronger than two or three Manchester City defenders combined. So Sam played him up top on his own. Based on those three little factoids, our front line was….uhhhhh…ineffective.
FIRST HALF DETAILS OF SIGNFICANCE.
In the 18th minute, a dreadful goal kick by Adrian went straight to Navas, who fought off Cresswell to win the ball. He ran down the right side and sent a looping pass intended for Aguero. Instead, it fell to James Collins whose attempted clearance went in the wrong direction, over Adrian, and into net.
Manchester City 1, West Ham 0.
It could have been 2-0 in the 27th minute when Fernando found Navas on the right side of the penalty area. Navas sent the ball back across the box to Silva, who made one quick touch before unleashing a shot that would have found the back of the net if Collins hadn’t gotten in front of it.
In the 35th minute, West Ham did a super job of turning an attack into a goal for the opposition. Navas picked up a yellow card for a tackle on Song from behind. The ensuing free kick went into the Manchester City penalty area and was flicked on by Cole to Downing. But instead of perhaps another cross, or maybe a cut across the top of the box to set up a shot on his favorite left foot, Downing attempted a pass to nobody in particular and gave the ball away. Off went Manchester City on the counter, led by Aguero and Navas. A simple, but effective give and go by that pair led to Aguero calmly putting the ball past Adrian.
Manchester City 2, West Ham 0.
SECOND HALF SYNOPSIS.
I don’t know what the final stats said about second half possession, but around the 60th minute the announcers here said Manchester City had enjoyed 81% of the ball in the second half. That number probably shrank a bit because West Ham looked a bit like a real football team for a few minutes. But overall, Manchester City should probably feel as bad for not scoring again as we do for losing. They had a bloodbath handed to them on a silver platter.
SECOND HALF DETAILS OF (LIMITED) SIGNFICANCE.
Carl Jenkinson has said on more than one occasion he has learned more about defending from Sam in one year than he had from Wenger in the whole of his time at Arsenal. He showed that in the 49th minute after Toure and Aguero played a one-two before Aguero broke down the left side of the West Ham penalty area. He looked set to shoot from point blank range before Jenkinson slid in with a well timed tackle to clear the ball from danger. Thank heavens for small favors.
If and when someone works with Valencia on his ball handling skills, we could have one dangerous player on our hands. But until then, we will have to live through what we saw in the 65th minute. Valencia picked up the ball in midfield and started to run at the heart of Manchester City defense. With Cole and Downing on either side of him, Valencia chose to keep running instead of sending the ball wide. He lost possession after yet another awful touch, and the semi chance was over before it started.
For the second consecutive game, at almost the same point on the clock, Sam made two substitutions that left virtually everyone shocked. Out came Cole and Song, who again looked less than pleased, and on came Jarvis and Nolan. Nene and Amalfitano, two players that might have surprised City, were left on their rather comfortable looking seats on the sidelines. I’m not knocking the two players brought on, but I do question who came off. For a moment, I wondered if Sam actually did things to intentionally provoke the supporters and his critics, who are often one and the same.
The game was delayed in the 68th minute when David Silva’s head met Kouyate’s elbow. The elbow won easily, and the game was delayed for 9 minutes while Silva underwent emergency surgery on the pitch and West Ham supporters checked their phones for the latest Sam out Tweets.
As bad as West Ham looked for most of the game, the final ten minutes plus stoppage time could have seen West Ham steal a point they didn’t deserve. In the 80th minute, Jarvis ran to the byline and sent a low cross to Downing. But Downing couldn’t control the pass right away, and that brief pause allowed Mangala to get in the way of the Downing’s shot. Minutes later, Valencia made a great run on the left wing and into the Manchester City penalty area. I don’t know if it was a shot off the outside of his foot or a pass attempt to Nolan, but whatever it was it went wide. Finally, in the last minute of the 90, an awful pass by Navas was picked up by Nolan. Captain Kev ran into the box, but Joe Hart came out to meet him and cut down any angle to make the save.
Final Score. Manchester City 2, West Ham 0.
Perhaps the most telling thing about today is how I bet most of us feel. Nothing much at all. I expected to lose, and we lost. I expected a lineup and formation built to protect a professional loss, and that’s what I got. I have no idea if we will win another game this year, and from what we all have seen the past few months I’m hardly surprised I feel that way.
Maybe that says it all.
You thought I was done, didn’t you? I’d like to ask everyone to click on the link below. Before the game, West Ham legend Jonjo Heuerman sent out a Tweet asking for donations from any corporate follower to help him get a new laptop. The one he uses for all of his charity work is dying a slow death. I replied, telling him to set up a GoFundMe page asking for help. “You don’t need a company” I told him. “You’ve got us”. Within minutes, he heeded my advice. This 13 year old lad has more conviction and sense of purpose than most adults. His goal of £800 should be a breeze. The link is below.
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