Football Features

“He was the brightest spark in a dim display” – Winners and Losers from Man City’s draw with hard-working West Ham

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 14:49, 24 October 2020 | Updated: 9:43, 30 March 2021

In an interesting afternoon of football, West Ham held Manchester City at The London Stadium.

The Hammers carried on their great form by taking the lead against City and although they couldn’t hold on for their first win against them since 2015, they did pick up a valuable point. Who were the winners and losers?

Winner: Phil Foden

For years people were clamouring for Manchester City to start Phil Foden and for years Pep Guardiola insisted that the youngster had to bide his time. His minutes were always restricted, but starting with last season, he has been unleashed as a major member of City’s squad.

He didn’t start today but when they were 1-0 down at half-time, Foden was sent on for Sergio Aguero of all people. This was a huge show in faith in the youngster that he could be the one to turn it around. And sure enough within six minutes he did just that.

Foden was right in position on the near-post to control Joao Cancelo’s cross, turn on the spot and smash it in the near-post to equalise for City. It was a vintage David Silva goal from the kid who has been tipped to replace David Silva since the day he showed up.

That’s a lot of pressure to live with, but Foden seems more than capable of handling it. He was the brightest spark in a dim display, and must now be considered part of their best XI.

Loser: Mendy and Zinchenko

You may be wondering why Benjamin Mendy is a loser for a game he didn’t even play in. And the simple reason is for how City played, Mendy would have been sensational in the XI if he had the discipline to work hard and stay fit and sharp enough.

The way City play, their passing system, it opens up angles all over the pitch but especially in wide areas. Now on the right they have Kevin de Bruyne who can run in behind and take full advantage of this. But on the left? Well during their title wins they had Leroy Sané who could do this, or when Mendy was fit, he could do this.

Or Oleksander Zinchenko (who came on at The London Stadium) could do this, even though he’s not really on the same level as the others. And it was notable that when he came on, instead of getting better, City kind of lost the penetration they had down that flank when Cancelo was there. City need a left-back, that much is painfully obvious.

Winner: Joao Cancelo

When Manchester City signed Joao Cancelo for £60m, many eyebrows were raised. After all City had Kyle Walker at right-back, what good could Cancelo serve beyond being an incredible expensive back-up? Well, it turns out that after a year of adaptation, he’d be City’s best left-back.

At least, on the evidence of the game at West Ham, City have no more reliable an option at left-back than the Portuguese right-back. He’s not exactly two-footed but he can use his left effectively enough to send in half-decent balls that take advantage of City’s passing attack opening up angles for him.

Against West Ham, Cancelo created 2 chances for City including the goal. He sent in more crosses (6) than anyone else in City black and repeatedly looked their most likely outlet for creating a goal. It’s probably not a permanent solution but for the rest of this season at least, Joao Cancelo may have found his ideal position.

Winner: Michail Antonio

Since the Premier League returned from the pandemic-enforced hiatus, Michail Antonio has played 13 games for West Ham. He has scored one goal in 7 of those games, notching four times against Norwich. All in all that means the striker has a quite staggering 11 goals in 13 Premier League games.

The 11th of those goals came today against Manchester City and it was, quite frankly, breathtaking. The ball came in from Vladimir Coufal and it wasn’t the best but the striker held off Ruben Dias with dismissive ease and then bent his body around to rocket the ball in with a supreme volley

Since the restart, only Harry Kane (12) has scored more goals in the Premier League than Antonio has. He’s a striker in supreme form ad one can only hope the injury that forced him to leave the field in the second-half isn’t too serious so that he can get back on the field and back to scoring as soon as possible.

Winner: Vladimir Coufal

West Ham usually get hammered by Man City. That they didn’t today was a massive team effort, but if one player stood out more than anyone it was new boy Vladimir Coufal. The Czech midfielder obviously picked up the assist for Michail Antonio, which was impressive enough, but he was also a relentless force at the back.

Coufal made a game-high 6 tackles to go with 2 clearances and 1 interception. He never gave City an easy time whenever they tried to get by him on the right. Even if they did get by him, Coufal was always coming back to get a foot in. Cancelo, Foden, Sterling, whowever it was – Coufal fought them to the very last.

Loser: Pep Guardiola

Manchester City have lost their last 6 Premier League away games when conceding first, so on the face of it the fact that they managed to come from behind and get a point is commendable to a degree. But really they should have done better, they should have won this game.

After all, City’s last three league games at The London Stadium have all been victories and the aggregate score has been a whopping 0-13 to Guardiola’s men. That is utterly ludicrous, and the fact that that they couldn’t even win this year shows just how far they have fallen.

Guardiola picked a starting XI that relied too much on Sergio Aguero, who was clearly not fit enough to start given that he got injured in the first-half and had to be subbed at the break. That was the good move from Guardiola as he brought Foden on and the youngster turned the game around for City, equalising just six minutes into the second-half.

However instead of immediately introducing Kevin de Bruyne and going for the kill he waited nearly 15 minutes before bringing on the Belgian midfielder, and by then West Ham had managed to reorganise themselves. Even stranger was Guardiola’s 78th minute sub, taking off Kyle Walker for Zinchenko, removing Cancelo from left-back where he has been great and moving him to the right where he was ineffective. Alright if Raheem Sterling could finish consistently then City probably win this game comfortably, but Sterling has never been able to finish consistently so relying on him to do so with no credible alternative is just bad planning.

All in all, a bad day at the office for Pep.

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