Manchester City 1 West Ham 2: How Man City might have avoided their shock defeat to the Hammers

ANALYSIS: We've teamed up with Sports Interactive, the makers of Football Manager, to re-run one of the weekend's key games to see how the losers might have prevailed had they done things differently

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The Independent Online

Manchester City's perfect start to the season came to a juddering halt at the weekend when away specialists West Ham sprung what is becoming a bizarrely commonplace shock. Having already beaten Arsenal and Liverpool in their own back yards, Slaven Bilic's team added City to their list of scalps with a 2-1 win at the Etihad. But how might it have gone differently?

THE RE-RUN

With West Ham's formation remaining the same, Sports Interactive simulated the game over again with various Manchester City line-ups and tactics until it produced an alternative result.

Formation: 4-2-3-1

Line-up: Hart, Otamendi, Mangala, Kolarov, Toure, Fernandinho, Navas, De Bruyne, Sterling, Aguero (unchanged from the actual line-up, West Ham also remain unchanged)

Final Score: Manchester City 3-0 West Ham (Scorers: Aguero (2), De Bruyne)

City are able maintain their one hundred per cent start to the season with a couple of minor tactical tweaks. In the virtual world, Pellegrini makes the astute decision to deploy Fernandinho as a holding midfielder in a bid to disrupt West Ham’s passing play between the centre midfielders and the attacking quartet. The absence of Fernandinho higher up the pitch does little to quell City’s rampant strikeforce as they run out comfortable winners.

Sergio Aguero is the star of the show yet again. He is involved in nearly all of City’s attacks and is the complete forward – holding up play, making runs, playing intricate passes and generally making life very difficult for West Ham’s back four. During one five minute spell in the second half, Aguero makes two key passes and has three shots on target.

The Argentinian’s first goal is brilliantly taken; he picks the ball up with his back to goal, twenty five yards out and plays a one-two with De Bruyne. Aguero runs onto the return pass before delicately lofting the ball over Adrian with his first touch. The second goal is a classic Aguero strike as he picks up a perfectly weighted pass from Sterling and, in one fluid movement, turns and strokes the ball into the back of the net.

aguero.jpg

 

Kevin De Bruyne is another City player who impresses. The Belgian midfielder is the most effective passer on the pitch, clocking up an impressive seventy per cent pass completion rate while also creating three clear cut chances for his new team-mates. He adds the final gloss on the scoreline for City with a low, driven shot from the edge of the area that Adrian can only help into the back of the net.

The presence of Fernandinho deep in City’s midfield causes Obiang and Noble to attempt riskier passes in an attempt to bypass him. This is reflected in their combined average pass completion percentage which stands at just fifty-nine per cent. Their main target is Sakho who loses sixty-three per cent of the aerial duels with Otamendi and Mangala. Even when Sakho successfully wins the ball, he is often boxed in and given little support.

 

West Ham’s best spell is towards the end of the first half when Payet begins to drop deeper to assist Obiang and Noble in their midfield battle. Payet’s distribution is much more effective and it’s his through balls that lead to the Hammers’ best two chances of the match. Unfortunately, Sakho’s efforts are stopped by Joe Hart, who himself is in inspired form. Slaven Bilic inexplicably pushes Payet back into an attacking midfield position at the start of the second half and West Ham never look like testing City’s back four after that.

Football Manager uses a vast database - compiled by approximately 1,300 researchers across the world (including real-life scouts) - to blend reality and fiction. So impressive is the information that it has become a tool used by real life managers. The painstakingly detailing simulation of club management, which allows players to control every aspect of a manager's role, from scouting new player to tactics and training, has sold millions of copies worldwide.

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