It’s hard to pick out any single player who was the root cause of West Ham’s 3-2 defeat to Newcastle United on Saturday.
Not a single claret and blue shirt covered themselves in glory against Steve Bruce’s men, but in amongst the horror show, there was one man in particular who looked well out of his depth.
Pablo Zabaleta is no spring chicken, of course, but he was made to look positively geriatric by Allan Saint-Maximin.
All afternoon, the £75,000-a-week Argentine [Spotrac] was ripped limb from limb by the French flier, and Zabaleta’s performance honestly made it look as if he is finished at the top level.
Over the course of the 72 minutes that he was on the field, the 34-year-old managed no tackles and just one interception, as per Whoscored.
By contrast, Saint-Maximin had five successful dribbles, three shots on goal, and played one key pass, as per Whoscored. If we’re being super-critical, he probably should have had at least one goal too.
And if you need any further confirmation of the disparity in class, just look at the two players’ match ratings, with Saint-Maximin hammering Zabaleta by 7.59 to 5.96.
Looking back, the game really raised two main questions.
Firstly, why did Manuel Pellegrini not start with Ryan Fredericks at right-back? he would have been far better equipped with the raw pace and trickery of Saint-Maximin.
Secondly, how much longer can Zabaleta perform at this level? He looked like a serious liability on Saturday, and how can his manager or supporters trust him again after such an abject display?
Surely, he is finished.