West Ham 0 - 2 Man City (Bianchi - 18, Geovanni - 87)
Attendance - 34,921
1. Paradise Lost
Well, there goes the unbeaten season.
2. Great Expectations
Even from Kolkata this looked terrible. I mean, how bad is it to be totally outplayed by a Sven Goran Eriksson side? Ecuador didn't manage that in the World Cup and they were aspiring to be mediocre.
I have rarely seen us look so insipid, which is quite a statement given that I've had a season ticket since I was 12. We conceded possession with such frequency that by the end I was beginning to suspect that new City chairman Thaksin Shinawatra had been up to his old tricks and carried out some human rights abuse on our midfield. Allegedly.
Perhaps even more worrying was that we looked flat in every aspect of the game. The players didn't look particularly sharp, there was little or no flair evident in our play and as mentioned above, anytime that we looked as though we might be able to build a period of sustained pressure we simply coughed up the ball with a misplaced pass. That's just so last season man.
3. War And Peace
Surveying the cyber world, it would seem that Hammers fans are divided over yesterday's "performance". If I had to decide between the two prevailing opinions of - "It's the end of the world!" or "It's only the first game of the year", then I'd probably err towards the latter.
This probably doesn't surprise you, knowing that I'm a fairly relaxed, but impressively purposeful, chap. However, last time I checked, the number of points available for a victory doesn't change dependent upon the time of year that you win. And given that we survived last season courtesy of a last day win, then I won't quite go so far as to be flippant about a defeat like this.
4. Mathematical Principles Of Natural Philosophy
Given that we were so unimpressive in possession, it would seem curious that we had 52% of the ball yesterday. Less surprisingly City outshot us by a grand total of 16 to 9. Closer inspection reveals that this isn't quite the sign of dominance that it might seem, as new City winger Martin Petrov had no less than 7 of those himself.
If City are ever outshot again it will be a minor miracle, given that Petrov appears to view it as a sign of weakness to pass to a team mate when within a two mile radius of the opposition goal.
Elsewhere, Bobby Zamora managed to commit no less than 6 fouls on his own, all whilst winning less aerial battles than the Luxembourg Air Force.
Matthew Upson had more shots than Craig Bellamy. A. Hem.
4. A Tale Of Two Cities
I'm not quite prepared to jump on the "City are fantastic" bandwagon, despite their evident superiority. After the opening goal, City made essentially no attempt to score a second until Curbishley took the rather curious decision to defend our left side using merely the Warsaw Pact instead of an actual full back.
As with pretty much any other team managed by Eriksson, once they took the lead City simply sat back and were content to hang on to their lead. I'm not complaining as such, if we can't break down a defence containing Richard Dunne then we have no grounds for moaning, but all the same, this doesn't strike me as a recipe for prolonged success.
The interchangeable cast of Eriksson's foreign new boys certainly acquitted themselves well enough though, given that none of them had met before. Unlike our midfield who simply played like strangers.
5. The Critique Of Judgement
It's quite hard to be objective about the performance of Peter Walton in this game. Objectively, he was terrible. Subjectively his was far from the worst performance out there so why bother to highlight it?
I would suggest that City fans found it equally as frustrating to see the game broken up by so many decisions that were plainly incorrect. Our cause wasn't helped by the fact that Bobby Zamora appears to equate "tackling" with "jumping on a defenders back".
6. The Divine Comedy
There was a lovely bit of play in the first half when Matthew Upson fed a splendid ball out wide to Luis Boa Morte, who in turn casually slipped a couple of challenges, before hitting Bobby Zamora with an inch perfect pas-
Actually, hang on a minute. That never happened. In fact, as I recall, Boa Morte was dispossessed (I'm not sure he ever does anything else but get dispossessed), leading to Elano running unhindered through our granite legged defence to set up the first goal. Of gravest concern was Upson's very passable impersonation of a statue during all of this. Quite what James Collins made of it all is beyond me, given his outstanding form at the tail end of last year.
I expect he makes quite a bit of it, actually.
7. The Art Of War
Events late in the second half of this game conspired to have me questioning Alan Curbishley's sanity. Before I begin chastising him too fully, let me first admit that I was impressed by his boldness in search of an equaliser.
He showed a willingness to think laterally that surprised me, although it was the application of that ambition that left me despairing.
His decision to substitute the woeful pairing of Bowyer and Boa Morte at half time was encouraging. There was an inherent risk that an injury to one of our defenders (read: Upson) would have forced him to bring on Gabbidon and burn the option of using Dean Ashton, but in the circumstances I was content with the thought process.
The move actually paid immediate dividends as Etherington began to drive through the City right side and Mullins stabilised our floundering midfield. Indeed, we almost carved out an equaliser when Ljungberg narrowly failed to convert a cross from the former.
Inexplicably, after our first period of sustained pressure Curbishley then took off McCartney, pushed Etherington to a quasi left back role, and brought Ashton on up front.
What was most curious about this was that it obviously and immediately negated our most potent attacking threat whilst simultaneously crowding the attacking third of the pitch. As it turned out, Ashton received little by way of service and Etherington was unsurprisingly exposed for the second City goal.
My own preference would have been to remove Zamora, who by this point was doing a very passable impression of a bag of peat, and try and pair Ashton with Bellamy.
8. Les Miserables
All of which chopping and changing meant that not one of our four midfield positions were occupied by the same player for the entire 90 minutes.
Hurry back Scott Parker, your midfield needs you.
9. The Odyssey
So it's a long season, and panic at this point is probably not justified but I reckon a slab of mild hysteria would be okay though.
A win at Birmingham and a bit of perspective will be restored. Sadly, that feels like something that I wrote just about every week last season.
Previously Curbishley was always noted for his ability to get Charlton flying at the start of the season, and falling away dismally by the culmination. Worryingly he seems to be operating in reverse here as this performance was essentially a repeat of everything we saw from November to March last season. His buys have been solid, but stolid, and the loss of our flair duo Tevez and Benayoun, has left a gaping hole.
Is the only option out there really Kieron Dyer though? Really? Really?
10. Vanity Fair
Good to see Craig Bellamy proving my theory that Goblin physiology is markedly different to humans by wearing a long sleeve shirt on the hottest day of the year.
A goal or two wouldn't go amiss though Griphook.........