Can the Hammers force Manchester City into another defensive meltdown?
Manchester City have played three away games this season. They’ve lost two, drawn the other, and in all three, have struggled to offer any real tenacity and strength across the back. Their defence has looked weak and flimsy to say the least, and with another road game scheduled for this weekend, Manuel Pellegrini will be desperately hoping that the Hammers don’t pressure his team into another defensive meltdown and subsequently weak performance.
How do West Ham bring about another decline from the 2012 champions? How can City reinstate their defensive credentials once more? The key is all about how direct the Londoners are in their attack, and whether they can isolate City’s defenders at all.
Perhaps the biggest unspoken truth this year has been the fact that City’s defenders—as a whole and individually—are poor tacklers. As a team, they rank 18th in the Premier League for total duels won (57 percent) and have struggled to win the ball back from their opponents.
Regardless of which option Pellegrini has tried at the back (having used seven defenders in as many games), City cannot win the ball back. It’s hardly surprising to see that out of those seven players, only Joleon Lescott and Matija Nastasic have won over 80% of their tackles, with the rest all chalking up very poor defensive performances this season.
The fact that City’s second-best defender this year is only winning 63% is testament to that.
The goal Andreas Weimann scored for Aston Villa, where he watched the ball run right through the middle of City’s defence, showed just how susceptible the Citizens are at the back, and it will be fascinating to see how direct West Ham are in trying to produce similar results.
Their most recent performance in defeating Spurs 3-0 at White Hart Lane showed just how deadly they can be on the counterattack (scoring three goals without any real time in attack), and the Londoners will no doubt be looking to produce a similar showing again in this one.
After all, if Tottenham only missed two tackles throughout the match and still lost 3-0 at home, the points could again be there for the taking for Sam Allardyce’s side.