It was always going to be a tough task, but West Brom were absolutely embarrassed by Manchester City at the Hawthorns on Tuesday night.
Aside from a few glancing attempts early doors, the Premier League’s front-runners romped to a 5-0 victory as Sam Allardyce’s backline was once again ruthlessly exposed by an all-out attacking masterclass.
Ilkay Gundogan bagged a brace, whilst the remaining three goals were scored by Joao Cancelo, Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling – perhaps the one shining light was the fact that Kevin De Bruyne was absent through injury otherwise it may have been a cricket score.
The Baggies’ midfielder was bypassed with ease, as it often is without a holding midfielder, and it saw Romaine Sawyers graded a lowly 5.5 by SofaScore but it is a little unfair on him.
It’s not his fault that he may not be good enough for this level of football. The 29-year-old doesn’t get that time and space he’s used to like in the Championship, nor does he have the capabilities to be a defensive influence.
Instead, fingers should be pointed at the Premier League’s leakiest defence – Albion have conceded 12 more goals than any other top-flight team and no team in Europe has let in more goals at home.
Big Sam really needed his defence up to the job but they all badly let him down, none more so than Darnell Furlong, who endured an abysmal night up against Sterling and Mahrez.
He had been out of the starting XI since the Arsenal whitewash, and it’s now easy to see why as he betrayed Allardyce’s faith in him.
The 25-year-old was their third-worst rated outfield player by SofaScore after he won only two of 12 duels (16%) both on the ground and in the air, which only further proves how he struggled to combat either of City’s wing threats.
Furlong also lost possession 14 times, meaning he was practically gifting the ball back to the visitors – as if they weren’t already heavily dominating the game (78% total possession), per SofaScore.
Given the former QPR star only made 35 touches, he lost the ball once every 2.5 times he it which was also once every six minutes.
By comparison, even the Baggies’ goalkeeper managed more touches throughout the 90 minutes.
BirminghamLive’s Joseph Chapman was equally scathing over Furlong’s display in his post-match ratings column as he graded as his joint-worst defender. He wrote:
“He was caught out at the back and gave Foden acres. Albeit with the misfortune of an officiating mistake, he played Silva onside as City began to run riot. Run ragged as Sterling and Mahrez, whose movement was second to none, caused havoc on either wing.”
It’s no wonder the Englishman had been out of the lineup in Albion’s two previous outings and Allardyce may well want to think again before he can trust the £21.5k-per-week lightweight again.
Until the likes of Sawyers and Jake Livermore are given added support in midfield, the blame has to lie in defence.