A 5-0 defeat, even against a side as good as Manchester City, doesn’t look great, to say the least. Most supporters would have tolerated a 2-0 loss but the size of the defeat rings alarm bells.
The strange thing is, West Ham played well for parts of the match, and it was just the absolute ruthless streak of their opponents which made the game look so one-sided at the final whistle.
I’m not saying there wasn’t a sizeable gap between the two sides, but fans should try to put this result into some perspective. The team won’t be playing against teams of the quality of City every week.
You only have to compare the game against City to West Ham’s last league game of the previous campaign to demonstrate what quality finishing can bring you. xG is something that measures how many goalscoring chances each team has per match.
When the Hammers won 4-1 versus Watford on the final day of last season, the Hornets had an xG of 2.23, according to Wyscout, which means they should have scored at least 2 goals in that match. Fast forward a few months later, City’s xG was actually lower (2.15) but they scored five times.
This is the mark of a side who are extremely clinical in front of goal, and it is not something that Manuel Pellegrini’s side will face often in the Premier League. There is certainly room for improvement. Mistakes were clearly made defensively, but in terms of the numbers, they didn’t actually underperform in the City game.
The percentage of aerial duels and one-on-one battles that were won was pretty similar to the Watford game. The number of interceptions and clearances was noticeably lower than the average for last season so that may need to be looked at but otherwise, the game was not that much different to their average level of performance from last season.
Of course, you could justifiably argue that the Hammers should be looking to improve on where they were last campaign, and I would agree with that. If they play to the same standard, they will finish mid-table once again.
The hope is, though, that as this was the first game of the season, they will begin to improve in the coming weeks, and I don’t think the players or the fans should be disheartened by the humbling loss to City.
It should be treated as a one-off. The Brighton game will be a much better marker as to where the club is at in terms of its likely position in the table, so let’s wait until then to make any judgements.