Analysis: Man City and Pellegrini need a Silva bullet in their armoury

Manchester City suffered their first blemish to their 2015/16 record on Saturday, as an obdurate West Ham team executed a historic smash-and-grab for all three points, leaving the home side rueing a hatful of missed chances at the Etihad.

City’s stellar defence was finally pierced after going over nine hours without conceding a goal in the Premier League – a record stretching back six games.

Despite Slaven Bilic’s team’s success, Manuel Pellegrini will not be overly concerned by his defence, into which a comfortable-looking Nicholas Otamendi slipped effortlessly.

In attack, however, there is a case to be made for City displaying a frustrating homogeneity with the likes of Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, and Jesus Navas all crashing time and time again against a stoic West Ham defensive line with little end result.

With Aguero yet to rediscover his peak form, characterised by his irresistible pace and defence-bending swivelling dummies, the Argentine dropped deep, searching for the ball in an effort to compensate for his slightly-lacking edge.

As a result, City presented the excellent West Ham defence with a manageable line of four attackers, stuck in a motionless cycle bereft of a genuinely energetic and piercing focal point.

Aguero’s positional lacking was exacerbated by City being forced wider by Winston Reid and James Tomkins, where the mind-numbingly infuriating Jesus Navas appeared incapable of beating the first defender with his countless crosses.

On the opposite wing, Sterling and De Bruyne dovetailed well, with the Belgian, in particular, looking lively and promising, yet neither offered the modicum of irreplaceable magic that the injured David Silva supplies.

With Silva in the team, Aguero can confidently play off the back of defenders, rolling them to latch onto Silva’s supply-line of assists.

What’s more, the opposition full-backs are forced narrower to close any gaps that Silva intuitively finds, subsequently opening up acres of space for City’s full-backs and for the other attacking players to occupy.

Against West Ham, Sterling rarely found his way past Carl Jenkinson, partly because of the Arsenal loanee’s disinterest in advancing up the pitch, and partly because City’s build-up play was painstakingly slow.

Without Silva, the ball was swept from side to side as congestion mounted and the similarity of City’s ball-players presented West Ham with a fairly straightforward task of stymieing their rhythm.

Granted, City were profligate in their finishing and on another day, one of Navas’ crosses might have found its target or West Ham keeper Adrian may not have executed a number of his excellent saves, but matters hardly went their way thanks to the ease with which West Ham held them at arm’s length.

Over the coming months, teams are likely to come to the Etihad and focus on frustrating Pellegrini’s team, and the Chilean will have to orchestrate a more efficacious game-plan to wriggle past the more defensively-minded teams planning trips to East Manchester, especially if they are to be without the skeleton-key that is Silva.

Image courtesy of Manchester City FC via YouTube, with thanks.

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