Sunday, 1 March 2009

West Ham 1 - 0 City

  • Yet another away day fail. Not as bad as Portsmouth, but still poor and nowhere near as good as at Anfield and Copenhagen last week. But despite this, we still had sufficient chances to win the game. This mental block we have over away games is certainly going to cost us seventh place, and probably eighth and ninth as well. And our remaining away games are at Stamford Bridge, The Emirates, Goodison Park, Old Trafford and White Hart Lane (in that order).
  • The first half was as bad as anything we've seen this season. Much like at Fratton Park, the midfield simply didn't show up. Kompany and Ireland looked unfit and off the pace, de Jong and Zabaleta were sloppy in possession, Robinho clearly wasn't interested. The reshuffle forced by Richards' withdrawal fifteen minutes in disrupted things futher: Zabaleta moved to right back, Ireland to central midfield and Bellamy to the right wing. We looked disjointed for the rest of the first half.
  • But despite this, we had the two best chances of the half. Twice Robinho went close from close range, a flick well saved and a tap-in mis-directed. The second was worse than his miss against F.C. København - he's now gone nine games without scoring. We can't expect Craig Bellamy to score all our goals; we could do with this goal drought ending sooner rather than later. But the point is that our poor finishing cost us today. In the slightly improved second half Caicedo missed two good half chances and we probably had enough of the ball to force a goal.
  • The second half was improved - we benefited from Valon Behrami's injury, and moved the ball with a bit more purpose than before - but we still didn't have the cutting edge necessary. Ireland, Elano and the two full-backs put some good play together but it was never enough to really break through.
  • The really upsetting thing is that this team - even discounting Robinho - included six players bought by Mark Hughes for exactly this sort of game. Given, Bridge, de Jong, Zabaleta, Kompany and Bellamy are all here for their bite, work rate and experience: but we still can't win away games. Of course, the process of Sparkyisation is still very much in its infancy. Hughes had to bring on three Eriksson signings (Caicedo, Elano and Bozhinov) in his attempt to change the game. But it would be nice if the January signings could win us a Premier League away game before 2009/10.

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