The veteran Argentine was torn to shreds by the rapid Allan Saint-Maximin in the Hammers’ 3-2 defeat to the Magpies last weekend, but Pellegrini has refused to blame the 34-year-old for the defeat.
“There are a lot of players at 34 years old,” he said at his pre match press conference on Thursday, as per Football London. “Before this game I think that he played at home and was an important player because he goes to the space very good against a team that comes just for defending but as I repeat I’m not talking about individual players.
“I’m very happy with the performance of Pablo. If he seems too slow in that counterattack it was because the position was not correct, not because he was slow. He can play without any doubt in this team.”
Not even Pellegrini could claim that Zabaleta had a good game against Newcastle. He was absolutely destroyed by Saint-Maximin, and it’s not even his fault, really. The former Manchester City man is now 34 years of age, so you can’t expect him to be able to keep up with a 22-year-old flair player when he’s breaking at top speed. That’s just not realistic, so it’s hard to really blame Zabaleta for that. The statistics show that he really failed to get going against Steve Bruce’s side. As per WhoScored.com, the Argentine failed to produce a tackle, but did commit a foul. He also had an unsuccessful touch and a WhoScored rating of just 5.96. You had to watch the game to see how poorly he coped with Saint-Maximin and co., though. It’s understandable for Pellegrini to defend his player, but for him to claim that Zabaleta isn’t slow at this point of his career is ludicrous.