When West Ham United manager Manuel Pellegrini opted to bring veteran right back Pablo Zabaleta into the team against Sheffield United last weekend it was seen as a slightly baffling, but acceptable, decision.
When he chose to keep him in the starting line up for the visit of Newcastle United – and one of the fastest wingers in the Premier League in Allan Saint-Maximin – on Saturday, it was rather more of a head-scratcher.
What followed was a woeful performance, both from West Ham as a team and Zabaleta specifically. The hosts were well beaten 3-2 at the London Stadium, with the game not as close as the final scoreline suggests.
While goalkeeper Roberto was probably most culpable for the collapse, making a couple of clangers, Zabaleta wasn’t far behind. The Argentine international produced a horror show of a performance against the lowly Magpies.
This performance must signal the end of the 34-year-old’s run in the team. He was simply atrocious on Saturday and was given the run-around by Saint-Maximin and co. from start to finish.
Furthermore, he had one unsuccessful touch, and produced two crosses, both of which failed to find their man. His WhoScored rating of 5.96 tells you all you need to know about his display.
You really had to watch the game – or even just the highlights – to see how outmatched he was up against Saint-Maximin. The Frenchman tore past him with regularity and could have had a couple of goals himself on another day.
It was a ridiculous idea to put a 34-year-old right back up against a man 12 years his junior who is widely regarded as one of the most rapid wingers around – and West Ham paid for it.