Ian Wright has admitted that he was baffled by Manuel Pellegrini’s decision to not play West Ham full-back Ryan Fredericks against Newcastle United on Saturday.
By that point, however, much of the damage had been done, with Zabaleta enduring a torrid afternoon against Allan Saint-Maximin, and with the Magpies essentially out of sight.
And Wright was quick to call out Pellegrini.
Speaking on Match of the Day (BBC One, Saturday November 2nd, 10.30pm), he said: “Why Fredericks wasn’t playing today is baffling to me.
“The tactics and selections are baffling.”
You have to agree with Wright on this one. Where on earth is the logic of playing Zabaleta, ageing veteran of the game who looks as if he is running through treacle most of the time, against Allan Saint-Maximin, one of the most direct and pacy wide men in the entire top flight? To fully understand how bad a decision this was, it’s perhaps better to look at how well the Frenchman played as opposed to how poorly Zabaleta managed against him. The wide man made five successful dribbles and had three shots on goal against the Hammers, as per Whoscored, and had it not been for Roberto and some poor finishing, he could have had a brace on another day. By contrast, Zabaleta didn’t make a single tackle, as per Whoscored. This was a disastrous decision from Pellegrini.