West Ham United endured the worst possible start to a Premier League season they could have had on Saturday, losing 5-0 to Manchester City at the London Stadium.
The Hammers started brightly but the quality of Pep Guardiola’s men quickly took centre stage on an afternoon overshadowed by the introduction of VAR.
It was Gabriel Jesus who got the ball rolling after his close-range strike eventually found the back of the net through a slight deflection off of Issa Diop.
The back four never really stood a chance against City and were constantly being exploited by the pace of Jesus and Raheem Sterling, with the latter securing a hat-trick at the death.
A disappointing afternoon for the defenders, who also conceded a penalty in between Sterling’s blitz, with Sergio Aguero eventually beating Lukas Fabianski having had to retake the original kick following the intervention of the video referee.
Forever West Ham has put together three things learned from Saturday’s clash with Manchester City:
START ANTONIO UPFRONT OR NOT AT ALL
Michail Antonio was somewhat surprisingly selected ahead of summer signing Pablo Fornals, and Pellegrini must have instantly regretted his decision. The 29-year-old was consistently a step behind City and left wide open spaces down the left-hand side with his fitness not holding up against the relentless champions.
His less than flattering performance all but proved his days as a winger are long in the past, and if he is to play, a spot as the lone striker is very unlikely, especially after Sebastien Haller’s arrival in East London.
Antonio scored six and assisted the same amount of goals last season in a central role, and it is time for Pellegrini to realise that if he is to play the Englishman, he has to throw him alongside Haller – with a role on the bench surely reserved for him next week.
NOBLE SORELY MISSED
The influential skipper’s absence stuck out like a sore thumb in the heart of midfield against City, who were able to toy with both Jack Wilshere and Declan Rice.
Rice proved that he is much better with Noble in the side, as he can share the defensive responsibilities between the two, but with Wilshere as his partner, he was exposed. Yes, Wilshere is clearly a good player, as highlighted in pre-season, but he operates best in pockets of space whilst in possession, and against Man City they are hard to come by.
Noble is more than just a captain, and his engine in the middle of the park is something that puts opposing sides under pressure and that wasn’t evident on Saturday. The 32-year-old has made 350 Premier League appearances, and West Ham could have done with every single ounce of that experience in a game like this today.
CRESSWELL NOT GOOD ENOUGH
From one captain to another. It was Aaron Cresswell who took the armband against City, and from his performance, you couldn’t tell if he was the skipper or a youngster making his first Premier League appearance.
The 29-year-old was consistently bombarded by the likes of Raheem Sterling, who managed to get behind the Hammers consistently on a torrid afternoon.
Cresswell admittedly wasn’t offered much support from Antonio in front of him, but there is no excuse to be beaten by balls over the top for a full game. Arthur Masuaku wasn’t involved in this game but you would definitely think that would change next week after Saturday’s performance.
According to WhoScored, Masuaku averaged considerably more tackles, clearances, and interceptions last season and his extended break after a summer at the African Cup of Nations must surely come to an end against Brighton.