Written by Rhys Paul
Manchester City’s 3-1 victory over West Ham was essentially a game of two halves. The opening 45 minutes was one of utter domination with the hosts running into a two-goal lead courtesy of goals from Raheem Sterling (7′) and Fernandinho (18′). Both goals summed up the story of the first-half. Sterling’s opener was beautifully worked by the home side – a fantastic example of the Pep effect – whilst Fernandinho’s bullet header was the result of some inept defending from a West Ham side who only showed for the second-half. In truth, the game really should have been over before the second-half began. Michail Antonio’s (58′) second consecutive back-post header in a week saw the Hammers undeservedly claw themselves back into the game and the last half an hour marked a significant improvement from the Londoners as they chased an equaliser. High pressing from the away side meant City looked dangerous on the attack and this led to an increasingly open game as the final whistle approached. Sterling (92′) topped off his best performance so far by wrapping up the points for Pep Guardiola’s men. It was hard watching for a West Ham fan who followed up poor showings against Chelsea and Bournemouth with an even worse, gutless display in the first half against City. The lack of fight and slow start was ultimately punished by a City side whose quality was simply too much for an out-of-sorts West Ham to deal with. Fortunately, the second-half salvaged some hope (otherwise nobody would have been selected as West Ham’s MOTM) and, with players returning from injury, things should pick up once business is resumed after the international break.
Adrian – 6
Celebrating his first call-up to the Spain squad, this was never going to be a quiet game for him. There was little he could have done about the first two goals, but he should take full responsibility for the third conceded in the dying minutes. Needlessly diving at Sterling allowed him to skip past the Spaniard and the goal was left exposed as a result. Even so, he did his part in helping keep the team in the contest.
James Collins – 6
Not his best performance, but that is true of all of the defence. Typically threw himself in front of shots/crosses and his determination to win aerial tussles helped install some fight into a previously dire performance. He didn’t look comfortable in the unfamiliar set-up used by Slaven Bilic and he continues to struggle with players running at him.
Winston Reid – 5
Another performance which raises question marks over Reid’s position as first choice centre-back. This was an improvement from the Astra game, but that is hardly a compliment. He did improve after the break, but he’s simply not consistent enough. An unnecessary elbow from Sergio Aguero will be retrospectively punished and it’s unlikely his subsequent substitution will lead to any time away from the first team.
Angelo Ogbonna – 5
Whereas the rest of the team improved significantly after the break, Ogbonna did so the least. Lazy marking for De Bruyne’s free-kick resulted in a free header for Fernandinho and he seemed more interested in winding up players at set-pieces as opposed to actually nullifying their threat.
Michail Antonio – 7
As a wing-back in the first-half, he showed once again why he is not a defender. He was another who was unsure of his role in the set-up and he drifted out of position frequently as a result. Naturally improved when was pushed higher up the pitch with the introduction of Sam Byram and it again showed in his attitude. Another headed goal to add to his collection, his positioning coming in from the right-wing is one of the best aspects of his game.
Gokhan Tore – 4
Fans are already on his back and, whilst I think some criticism has been harsh, he cannot be excused on this occasion. Of all the players, he struggled most in the new system and he is hardly the best defensively. His set-pieces are terrible and he was rightfully dragged off at half-time for Byram. Antonio’s impact in the second-half cast Tore in an even more unfavourable light.
Mark Noble – 7 (Man-of-the-Match)
Noble was also guilty of going missing for the first 45 minutes at the Etihad. He improved after the break, but only after his frustrations earned him an avoidable yellow card. Once he started to take hold of the game, things began to improve. A sliding challenge on the half hour mark followed by an inch-perfect ball to Antonio was the first real bit of quality and spirit displayed. He drove the team forward and played a big part in getting them back into the contest. A good effort in the closing stages almost reduced the deficit back to one goal.
Cheikou Kouyate – 6
Nowhere to be seen in the first-half and his absence was glaringly obvious as City’s midfield ran the game. His presence was felt as the side improved and the space he created from his runs in the middle benefited those around him. Nevertheless, he is capable of far better.
Arthur Masauku – 6
Easily his worst performance since joining the club. He looked off the pace in the early stages – receiving an early booking which many expected to turn into a red before the end of the game – and Sterling won the battle between the two. It was clear City were targeting him with Sterling in particular looking to get him sent-off, but he eventually rose above it and redeemed himself to some degree with a well-worked assist.
Enner Valencia – 4
Even with the injuries, it is still surprising that Bilic continues to field the Ecuadorian. He is far too lightweight and the team never looked capable of countering effectively with him spearheading the attack. Frequently isolating himself is becoming a common part of his game and it is easy to see why fans are growing increasingly frustrated with him.
Ashley Fletcher – 6
Not a bad Premier League debut for the 20 year old. Given the current striker situation, many fans were calling for him to start the game and he did not disappoint. He was also going to find it hard against two established centre-backs in Otamendi and Stones, but he used his physicality to make life difficult as he chased the game from the front.
Sam Byram (45′ for Tore) – 6
Byram’s introduction balanced the team and allowed Antonio to move into his natural position up the pitch. The team looked less makeshift with a natural right-back in the side and Bilic must surely realise this soon.
Manuel Lanzini (60′ for Valencia) – 6
To say Lanzini’s return is welcome would be an understatement. It was a smart decision to bring him on immediately after the goal and it helped keep momentum in West Ham’s favour. Some neat touches showed fans the quality they have been missing.
Jonathan Calleri (78′ for Reid) – 6
I’ve been disappointment with him since he’s arrived and he was awful against Astra. However, he looked lively coming from the bench and caused a few problems for the limited time he was on the pitch.
West Ham fans, do you agree with these ratings? Let us know in the comments below!