West Ham 2 Man City 1: Three talking points
Three talking points as Hammers upset Citizens to maintain their league position
West Ham show they are a different proposition this season
Manchester City beat West Ham twice in the league last season, and neither game was particularly close. However, their performance today is an indication of how far they have come. They have changed their style and adopted a 4-1-2-1-2 formation and it has allowed Stewart Downing to flourish as the creative player in behind two powerful strikers. Whereas last season the default was to often hit the ball long for either Andy Caroll or Carlton Cole, this season has seen a variation in their play which has made them much more potent. Another inspired piece of business was the acquisition of Alex Song. He can be prone to the odd lapse, but he is tenacious in the tackle and it was his through ball which led to the opening goal. Many people were calling for Sam Allardyce to be sacked so the way in which he has turned it around has been very impressive. The football has become more expansive as the fans have demanded, but West Ham have still remained reasonably solid in defence. Their performance against the top sides has also been a vast improvement and it bodes well for the rest of the season.
Pellegrini seems more unsure of best eleven this season
Squad depth is an important thing for many of the top sides as they have to contend with a multitude of competitions. But in many ways it has caused Manuel Pellegrini more headaches this season. Last season, he had Yaya Toure and Fernandinho as his first-choice central-midfield partnership. In defence it was usually Martin Demichelis and Vincent Kompany. The introduction of Eliaquim Mangala and Fernando has complicated matters and has seen the central pairing in both areas change frequently. The results seem to mirror this as City aren’t as fluid this season. The uncertainty in selection has extended to their defence, as the back four has changed on a number of occasions this season. Pablo Zabaleta was replaced by Bacary Sagna in the last league game, while at left back it seems to be a lottery as to who will start. Sometimes Gael Clichy is in favour and at other times its Aleksandar Kolarov, neither has really cemented their place. As a result Kompany has seemed less assured and was caught out of position a few times against West Ham. The best example of this was the first goal scored by Morgan Amalfitano were Clichy left a huge gap in behind him and this forced Mangala to run across and cover his left back. Amalfitano was left unmarked to tap into an open net and this was all down to uncertainty in defence and lack of chemistry. If City are to retain the title, they will have to have more consistency in selection or more results such as the one today against West Ham will follow.
Sakho and Valencia’s partnership continues to thrive
Diafra Sakho was purchased from newly promoted French team Metz for just £3.5m, while Enner Valencia was purchased from Pachuca off the back of a successful World Cup for £12m. It was a risk but the deals have immediately paid dividends as between them they have scored nine goals, they have also linked together well. Sakho and Valencia both have the ability to pull into wide positions and exploit their power and pace. It contrasts massively to the one-dimensional qualities that Cole and Caroll offered leading the line last season. But none of the physical threat diminishes with Sakho and Valencia. Both of them are exceptional aerially allowing midfielders to pick up on the second ball. It also gives great confidence to West Ham’s wide players and full-backs knowing their crosses will be attacked. West Ham’s win owed much to Valencia and Sakho as they gave Mangala and Kompany the run-a-round.