Blind Hammer’s Manchester City Match Report.
One of the features of last season was how we over performed against top 4 sides. Now, we have not just returned to more normal performances but have seriously under-performed against the very sides we were shocking last season. David Sullivan in his TalkSport interview earlier this week pointed to one of the more objective reasons for this gap re-emerging. These sides have recruited incredible managers and have spent eye watering sums to assemble an array of staggeringly talented players in their teams.
Certainly we seemed seriously out-classed against City. The team which had responded so well to Payet’s truculent strike had their confidence badly shaken again.
Slaven Bilic analysed the defeat in terms of mistake and organisation.
He said after the game, “We gave the ball away for their first and third goals and we made mistakes.
“It’s hard to go so quickly 2-0 down and then we make another mistake and then after that we weren’t aggressive enough and we didn’t close them down.”
Certainly Manchester City did not need the advantage provided by mistakes by Aaron Cresswell, Pedro Obiang and a decidedly shaky looking Jose Fonte, making his debut on a traumatic night.
Hopefully Obiang will come back despite being hooked by Bilic; he has a lot of credit from recent performances. Jose Fonte had a baptism of fire and all being well have sufficient experienced and mental toughness to recover to perform against his old team at the weekend. Cresswell is more of a long term worry. He has not seemed the same player since returning, I don’t know if this is simply form, or whether he is carrying an Obonna style injury or whether he has a Jenkinson style confidence problem emergent. Most games I attend he seems to have a bad mistake in him, even if we are not always punished for it. I am starting to think the unthinkable, and wonder whether Masuaku should be given a run when fully recovered.
Generally the team appeared terrified of the talent arrayed against them; especially referencing the 0-5 drubbing handed out only 26 days ago. -
“We can say that it’s playing Man City and not every team is like Man City and that’s true but we have to get over this game and we have to prepare for the game against Southampton.
“They beat us 5-0 in the cup and then 4-0 tonight and make no mistake, we have to give them credit but it was also about us.”
Specifically Bilic complained;
“We gave those kinds of players too much space and time on the ball and space between the lines. When you give them space like that they just slaughter you.
“It was very frustrating and it’s like what happened in the cup. We again started well but when you make mistakes like we did for some of their goals and if you give the ball away in those areas then they punish you. After that, it’s very difficult to play against them.”
Bilic is an extremely honest manager but perhaps he has unusually pointed the finger of blame at the players whilst more honestly he also needs to look at himself. One of the central themes which have defined Bilic’s season so far has been his use of Antonio. I kept switching from In Stadium to Five Live Commentary during the game. Whilst some of the comments made by Pat Nevin were facile and stupid, for example, calling for West Ham to reduce the size of the pitch in complete ignorance that pitch sizes are now set by Premiership rules, other points had more validity. He was surprised at Bilic deploying a line up which had admittedly succeeded against the level of challenge provided by Middlesbrough and Palace, seemed ill prepared to meet the test of Manchester City. Bilic had not shown tactical flexibility to meet different challenges. We were fighting fire with fire with an aggressive 4-4-2.
Critically Nevin believed that by playing Antonio in an advance role West Ham denuded them of essential manpower in the middle of the park and allowed them to be overrun. Certainly Bilic seems oddly reluctant to play Antonio in his favoured right wing position experimenting with him as sole striker, second striker wind back and full back. I imagine Byran would have been much happier having the support of a harder working Antonio supporting him on his flank.
It is easy to be wise after the event and in all honesty if Bilic had changed the side formation we may still had lost. However I for one hanker to see Byran and Antonio prosper in a hardworking powerful partnership on the right. My instincts is that there is less chance that we will be terrorised on the break down this flank at least with this partnership and Bilic needs to install it for the Southampton trip.
There was some hope with the arrival of Robert Snodgrass who would seem to have played his way into the team against Southampton by default. As Bilic says we do not play Manchester City every week but after this difficult season is over he needs to have a sober reflection on how he sets sides up to counter the threats of teams like Arsenal and City. Losing to them is acceptable, even at home, losing regularly by conceding over 4 goals a game is not.
Yet again we need to repair confidence at a critical juncture of the season. Howe we perform against teams like Southampton, West Brom will determine how we feel at the end of the season and likely to influence even next season. We came off the rails against City. It is now time to get back on Track.