I guess most of us thought Manchester City would play like a team of strangers. I hadn’t heard of most of the players in their lineup, but by the end of the game I was wishing that at least two of them were on our side – Elano and Biannchi. This was a dire performance by West Ham and made you think that this season may well be just as difficult as the last one. Not a single player, bar Robert Green, had a decent game. They played as if there had been no pre-season. They were devoid of passion, initiative and guile. The English players must have known Steve McLaren was watching, yet none of them did their causes any good at all. From the off, Anton Ferdinand played with a lack of lustre that has become far too apparent in his game. Mark Noble played the whole game as if he couldn’t recognise another West Ham player. He gave the ball away so often you almost itched to have Nigel Reo Coker back in the side. Lee Bowyer was still on his summer holidays and was deservedly subbed at half time. Boa Morte was as bad as I have seen him. Indeed, I have never seen him have what you could call a good game.
At half time Curbishley subbed Bowyer and Boa Morte and brought on Etherington and Mullins. The first twenty minutes of the second half showed a little promise. Etherington constantly raced down the left and crossed the ball, only to find no one there. Etherington did more in the first five minutes of the second half than Boa Morte had done in the entire first half. Boa Morte didn’t seem to realise he was on the left and constantly went in field. It was left to Bellamy to ply his trade down the left.
But when Dean Ashton came on, instead of subbing the hapless Zamora Curbishley brought off McCartney (who headed straight down the tunnel) and unbelievably moved Etherington to left back. After that he disappeared.
However, let’s get some perspective. It’s one game. The way some peopel are reacting you’d think we’d just been relegated. What it demonstrated to me was that we need a new left back – hopefully Nicky Shorey or Matthew Taylor. We can’t afford to sell Etherington because Boa Morte doesn’t cut it. Mullins was a huge improvement on Bowyer and I wonder about the wisdom of flogging him to Reading or Charlton. He will always be half decent cover for Noble and Parker.
But the greatest lesson is in defence. Upson showed some compsure and nice touches but Ferdinand will have to do a great deal better than that to retain his place. He has Collins, Gabbidon and Davenport breathing down his neck. He’s better watch out.
And so to the marks…
Robert Green – 7 Not to blame for either goal. Solid performance, which will have impressed McLaren
Anton Ferdinand – 5 Poor performace with no redeeming factors
Matthew Upson – 7 Composed and solid
George McCartney – 6 Didn’t get forward enough and was weak on the overlap
Jonathan Spector – 6 Was he playing?
Mark Noble – 5 His worst performance yet. Unrecognisable from last season
Lee Bowyer – 5 Not at the races
Luis Boa Morte – 4 Must be dropped for the next game
Craig Bellamy – 6 Good in flashes but couldn’t work with Zamora
Bobby Zamora – 4 Terrible game. Won nothing in the air and barely had a shot
Freddie Ljungberg – 7 Probably the best outfield player in terms of commitment but seemed to roam all over the place
Matty Etherington – 6 Excellent for the first 15 mins of the second half but then disappeared because of move to left back
Dean Ashton – 5 Missed one good chance, but looked very heavy indeed
Hayden Mulling – 6 Competitive and busy