Date: 4th February 2017 at 11:55am
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Wouldn’t you just believe it? On a day when Manchester City at last gave us a glimpse of the future, the Pedmachine left his laptop at Sue’s when he was working in Manchester. So, apologies dear readers for the absence of a Ped Report this week.

Having now recovered access to the said laptop I thought I would take the opportunity to give you my observations of the match against West Ham together with one of two feelings about this weekend’s important home match against a resurgent Swansea City.

On Wednesday, the pre-match comments surrounded a newly-hungry, Payet-free set of Hammers ready to gain revenge over a City side who took them apart recently in the FA Cup. The Blues have been a bit off colour in recent Barclays Premier League matches, although in two rounds of the FA Cup they have register eight unanswered goals.

At least we have now determined that Pep Guardiola reads the Ped Report and has at last started to listen to the tidings therein because having seen that in the two FA Cup matches, where City conceded no goals, Willy Caballero was the custodian of the netting and at no point, with the additional confidence he gives his defensive line, did it look as though he would be visiting the back of said netting.

Accustomed and unafraid of controversy, the automatic selections of Aguero, Fernandinho and of course the nouveau ball-boy known as Bravo were sentenced to an evening on the bench.

Yaya was to provide the cover, once the domain of Fernandinho, Silva was to play almost as a loose man alongside De Bruyne with the triumvirate of Sane, Sterling and new-boy Gabriel Jesus designed to provide mayhem up top.

And that is precisely what proved to be the case. From minute one it looked as though West Ham would struggle in similar fashion to their FA Cup exit as Sane and Sterling slaughtered them down the flanks and Jesus tormented their centre backs, dragging them all over the place and creating the type of vacant areas that have been absent in many matches this season. This gave Silva and co licence to bomb on in support, much as they did in the early stages of the season as the gaps opened.

It is no coincidence therefore that both of them were nominated on the scoresheet. But how easy was it? I have often declared that when City play three simple passes quickly, they can open up any team, but all too often this season that has not happened with the side seemingly happy to try to prise openings from the fringes as the opposition pile their numbers into the box.

The key to zero goals against was to starve Carroll of service from wide out and Kolarov and Sagna achieved that quite masterfully to the extent that with the excitement up ahead, their work went more or less unnoticed. Otamendi had one of his better matches dealing easily with the aerial threat and Stones positional sense with the additional confidence of having Caballero behind kept both Carroll and Antonio in silence. Neither Lanzini nor Feghouli saw enough of the ball to provide any sort of support.

Obiang and Noble were left chasing shadows and settled for deploying their darker tactics to try and wrestle things away from Silva, De Bruyne and finally Jesus. With Byram and Cresswell penned in by Sane and Sterling, the Irons were very much nullified.

Guardiola has often bemoaned the fact, correctly, that when City attack early on, quite often the chances are missed and the opposition appear to score at their first attempt. The Hammers did get some sort of chance early on in this encounter but Willy stood tall.

More or less the first time that City threatened the Hammers goals they scored, and did so in laser-like fashion as De Bruyne raced forward after collecting a stray pass from Cresswell. Immediately Sane and Jesus were on their jet-propelled motor bikes. Sane ran left to right dragging the cover with him, but De Bruyne saw the run of Jesus and passed into his path. As Sane continued his run the waves parted and Jesus returned the favour giving the Belgian a chance to open the scoring. It was the type of chance he hasn’t taken recently but this time he made no mistake and the job was under way.

Not only did City score on their first visit to the West Ham goalmouth, but a few minutes later they did likewise. This time it began with an excellent tackle by Yaya outside the City box. He recycled the ball quickly to De Bruyne who immediately sent Sane away down the left. Sane nutmegged Byram and sprinted into the space behind. This time Jesus pulled all the cover to the near post, so Sane rolled it neatly into the path of Silva who steered the ball home with simplicity.

The game was effectively over as West Ham had no response to this type of onslaught and already with less than a quarter of the match gone, the Irons were in damage limitation mode.

Sane, Sterling and Jesus attacked from all angles and the West Ham defence were almost running round in circles and in confusion. And so it proved ahead of half time when the new triumvirate combined to slice open the Hammers once again. Sane it was who read the pass, intercepted it and again sprinted into space, spotting Sterling wide open on the right. His first time pass went straight into the path of Gabriel Jesus who couldn’t miss and became the first City player to both score and assist in his first Premier League match.

It was now a procession in the direction of the Hammers goal and the score could have been whatever City wanted. On the bench Aguero watched in stunned admiration as those in competition for his starting berth effectively said “That’s the way to do it!”.

After the break City took their foot of the gas but still retained the ball. West Ham produced nothing of note, being kept on the back foot and resorting to trying to chop down the Blues…if they could catch them.

Just after the hour, once again De Bruyne’s vision sent Sterling into the clear. Raheem teased West Ham debutant Fonte into a foul and up stepped Yaya, once again, to drill home the penalty and to bring an end to the scoring for the night.

This signalled changes and De Bruyne was immediately withdrawn in favour of Fernandinho. This meant that he would replace Yaya as the midfield holder giving the big man licence to forage further forward. He has been a monolith in central midfield plying his trade in only around 20 square metres of turf, closing virtually every door. Next to go was Sterling allowing Aguero to enter the stage and finally Silva was replaced by Delph.

This clearly slowed down proceedings as Jesus was now asked to play out wide to accommodate the mighty Sergio, who must now be invited to change his game to ensure that he is tune with the pace around him, play in those in better positions and take whatever chances come his way. I suspect there will be many.

This performance was incredible. Any one of the outfield players were in with a chance of man-of-the-match but the lights really shone on the front three, De Bruyne and Silva. We can’t ignore Yaya’s contribution. Not only did he seek and destroy in midfield but once again he was totally reliable from the spot in a way that has escaped Aguero on occasion in the last two seasons. It was as if, with the bench pregnant with class, everyone on the field realised they had to put in a shift and once the well-oiled machine clicked into gear, City no longer looked like an out of control speed boat without a driver but more a sleek, streamlined yacht purring gracefully around the football field.

So what about tomorrow? Will Guardiola continue to heed the Pedmachine’s warnings and once again parade Caballero in goals? The Blues can’t afford to underestimate Swansea. Since yet another change of manager they seem to have got themselves a foothold in proceedings, turning over Sue’s darlings at Anfield and dragging themselves out of the bottom three.

City have been successful against the Swans more or less every time they have played them since they emerged from the Championship, but it is always a game that takes time to get on top. I believe that, if City can get an early goal again, with Caballero between the sticks, there is every chance that the Blues can steam forward again.

Will Pep restore Aguero? Playing Jesus means that after a full season in Brazil he will have played a brief cameo against Spuds and then three matches in a week. But what of this young man? Not only does he look like a goal machine, he looks focused and has a work ethic we have not seen since the glory days of Tevez. He wants the ball and if we lose it, he wants it back. Sane, too looks to have a similar hunger. He seems to have emerged from behind a curtain into the spotlights and simply looks scary.

My heart tells me that he should go with the same line-up but with the number of changes Pep has made this season, we can expect some unexpected selections at 1230 tomorrow.

Maybe Yaya will get a rest, but it is no secret that since he was restored to the side he has played like he did in the title seasons and the tachometer now put on his game means he is far more dangerous to the opposition in a defensive sense but still has the eye for a killer pass to the whippets around him. Fernandinho is the man under threat here. He has been the stalwart of the operation for the last two seasons but his misdemeanours could well cost him a starting berth.

Guardiola is said to have conceded the title to Chelsea prompting a comment from Conte that he is playing mind games. Maybe the Italian has him confused with a manager just outside Manchester.

Although the Pedmachine has been like-minded for a while now, I am aware that in both 2012 & 2014 the Blues were a long way behind the Stretfords and Liverpool and simply by winning the next match and seeing what happens, they finally hunted both of them down. It is difficult to see where Chelsea will drop the points, but it was difficult to see where both the Rags and the Scousers were going to lose points. And they were at odd places. We all recall Wigan beating United and City cashing in by leathering West Brom the same night. And as for Liverpool at Crystal Palace?need I say more (sorry, Sue).

The Blues are heading into a period of winnable matches before hitting the three-pronged attack of Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea in succession. A run of wins against the lesser teams will put them in good stead for the more difficult run which will be interspersed by Champions League matches and a re-arranged Derby at the Etihad.

The Barclays Premier League never sleeps!

 
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