Written by Rhys Paul.
There’s something special about the third round of the FA Cup. For the top two divisions, it marks the beginning of the competition and it is arguably the moment when it truly gets going. This year, West Ham and Manchester City kicked things kick in some unusual surroundings. It was not just the fact that this was the first FA Cup tie at the London Stadium, but I couldn’t have been the only one who felt that it didn’t seem right to be taking place on a Friday night.
Above all, the third round is famously the round of the underdogs. Despite being in the same league, few would have predicted West Ham to triumph over Man City. As it turned out, West Ham failed miserably in their attempts to pull off the first ‘shock’ of the weekend. Honestly, the only shock was the fact that City managed to only score five. A fairly even start to the game descended into chaos for the Hammers as the visitors gradually made their quality count. Central to City’s increasing success in splitting the West Ham defence was their talismanic Spaniard. David Silva was in irrepressible form and demonstrated why he should be regarded as one of the best midfielders of his generation, so don’t let the shortcomings of the opposition take anything away from what was a mesmerising performance for the 58 minutes he was on the pitch.
It was Silva’s pass that put Pablo Zabaleta (33′) through with the Argentinian drawing a clumsy challenge from Angelo Ogbonna. It was a soft decision by Michael Oliver, but Ogbonna foolishly allowed himself to be drawn in, so it is hard to feel sympathy for the Italian. Sofiane Feghouli’s miss minutes later was the turning point in the contest. For the second game in a row, the Hammers allowed the opposition to counter and respond with a goal of their own. Brilliant work from City down the right culminated in a peach of a cross from Bacary Sagna. Mr ‘In the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time’, Havard Nordtveit (OG, 41′) could do little but turn the ball into his own net to prevent Raheem Sterling getting on the end of it. Heads dropped and the defence went missing. The contest was as good as over before half-time Silva (43′) deservedly getting on the scoresheet with the simplest of goals.
The second-half was uninteresting and tedious. Sergio Aguero’s (50′) instinctive positioning ensured he unsurprisingly joined the rout and accelerated the number of fans leaving their seats for the night. By the time John Stones (84′) – typically with his first goal for City – headed in the fifth, some fans were probably already home. City played West Ham off the park and, unfortunately for some, it wasn’t Upton Park. The same problems keep on resurfacing for the Hammers and for a fan base who value the FA Cup so much, it was disheartening to see the players care so little once City flexed their muscles.
Adrian – 6
A good early save from Silva and he did superbly to tip over Aguero’s volley to initially keep City at bay. There was very little he could do about any of the goals. He’ll unfairly be associated with yet another heavy defeat, but it probably would have been worse without him.
Havard Nordtveit – 4
Began the game brightly and finally made a successful sliding challenge stop Sterling in his tracks. As touched on, he was unlucky with the own goal, but struggled like most of the players after that. Sterling had the beating of him all night.
Winston Reid – 7
Best player in claret and blue by some distance. Several important blocks and a world class recovery tackle to deny Sterling in the box epitomised how crucial he is to the team. He seemed the only player on the pitch capable of winning the ball from Sterling as well. He allowed himself to get drawn to the ball too easily at times and that contributed to the fatal third goal. It’s a shame he find himself having to do the jobs of the hapless defenders around him.
Angelo Ogbonna – 3
Liability. Once he approached Zabaleta, it was painfully obvious he was going to give away a penalty. He seemed to constantly go missing and seemed unable to make a single challenge. A new centre-back is needed this transfer window.
Aaron Cresswell – 4
Usually the most consistent player on the pitch, Cresswell continues to be a shadow of the player he was before his injury. No longer do his overlaps contain any purpose and his passing was woeful. Silva and Sagna enjoyed too much success down the right and it is hard to even remember Cresswell winning the ball from them. Lost the ball frequently.
Edimilson Fernandes – 5
Honestly forgot that he was on the pitch for most of the game. It was a difficult game for the youngster to be drafted in for and it was always going to a tall order replicating Kouyate’s energy levels.
Pedro Obiang – 6
Started well, but – like the entire West Ham midfield – he went missing once City began to run away with it. Overrun in the middle of the park and will see better days in a West Ham shirt.
Manuel Lanzini – 4
Never looked like he was going to produce his best. His tracking back was atrocious and his attempts at tackling were even worse. Like Payet, he only produces his best when things are going his team’s way.
Sofiane Feghouli – 3
With the goal open, Feghouli could have changed the game. Gael Clichy came in late, but the shot had already been taken and it was dragged horribly wide of the goal. His crossing could use some fine-tuning as well. Disappeared after missing a sitter.
Andy Carroll – 5
It’s difficult to criticise Carroll after he was starved of any real service. He did well to try and get himself involved, but it’s evident that he needs somebody to play as a secondary striker off him. Rightfully subbed as there was no point in risking him any further.
Michail Antonio – 5
Like most, he did well in the opening 20-25 minutes of the game and he did force a save from Willy Cabellero. Struggled defensively again and, for a winger, he cannot put a good ball into the box. I’m still not sold on this insistence that he’s used as a striker when we’re seeking a goal. Yes, he’s the club’s top goalscorer, but he doesn’t have the footballing brain of a striker and that is reflected in his positioning.
Mark Noble (58′ for Lanzini) – 4
Over-hit passes and a half-hearted clearance off the line were the highlights of his night.
Dimitri Payet (58′ for Carroll) – 5
A bit of a strange one to bring him on when the game was already lost and even stranger to see him replace Carroll. A couple of nutmegs and neat tricks made for some pleasant viewing, but his set-pieces still need some work.
Ashley Fletcher (72′ for Antonio) – 5
For me, Fletcher should have been given more game time once Bilic decided to withdraw Carroll. He saw little of the ball, but he did have a moment when he carried the ball forward well before holding it up. Unfortunately, his teammates laziness let him down and he succumbed to the pressure of the City defence.
Willy Cabellero – 6, Bacary Sagna – 8, John Stones – 7, Nicolas Otamendi – 6, Gael Clichy – 7, Pablo Zabaleta – 8, Yaya Toure – 7, *David Silva – 9*, Kevin De Bruyne – 6, Raheem Sterling – 8, Sergio Aguero – 7
What did you make of West Ham’s dismal performance? Is this Man City’s year? Let us know in the comments below!
Featured Image by Andrew Wilkinson