Date: 1st February 2017 at 9:09am
Written by:

Having eased into the fifth round of the FA Cup with a professional 0-3 victory at Selhurst Park at the weekend, City return to the capital on Wednesday to face a West Ham United side that may well present a different proposition to the team dispatched by the Blues with consummate ease at the start of January. They need to be on their guard.

Since they were thumped 0-5 by City in the fourth round of the FA Cup, the Hammers seem to have recovered their mojo and have secured back to back wins against Palace and Middlesbrough scoring six and conceding only once. Their big news this week of course has been the profitable sale of the unhappy Dmitri Payet back to Marseilles for £25m – some £15m more than they paid for him back in 2015. Good business if you can get it. Perhaps the resolution of that situation has cleared the air at the club and enabled Bilic to get his squad to focus on the football rather than the miserable footballer sulking through the training sessions and generally dragging everyone down. They should also be fresh as daisies having not played a match since 21st January due to their absence from the cup. Darn. That was our fault.

City fans and Pep especially will have had their hearts and spirits lifted by the performances of Gabriel Jesus and Leroy SanĂ© at the weekend. The sight of David Silva striding forward into space across the halfway line with the two young wingers flying ahead of him and making astute runs made spirits soar among the 4,000 faithful fans crammed into the corner of Selhurst Park. SanĂ© appears to have discovered his confidence and Gabriel Jesus showed exactly why City were prepared to wait for him to arrive. He demonstrated pace, strength, determination, trickery and vision in a performance which will have Premier League defenders waking up at night in a cold sweat. Indeed he sowed such concern among those he faced at the weekend that Joe ‘Limited’ Ledley decided to upgrade his “Welcome to the Premier League” package to the Platinum version by adding the bonus ‘take a good run at him and try and break his ankles flying challenge’ option. Worthy of a red in my opinion…and probably would have been if committed by, say, Fernandinho.

Pep certainly seemed impressed and the lad looks to have a bright future. I can foresee many other moments when he will lift the faithful to their feet as he runs at opposing defences. He should perhaps invest in a decent pair of ankle protectors and shin pads – I have a feeling he may need them. Aguero, absent with a slight knock, should perhaps take note of two incidents – the vision the lad showed in the first half in picking out Sterling with a sublimely weighted pass for the first goal and the determination he showed in the second to chase down a Palace player, recover the ball successfully without committing a foul and then finding a team mate with an exquisite eye-of-the-needle pass. In those two instances he demonstrated what Pep wants from his forwards – unselfishness at the appropriate moment and determination. It struck me immediately with the first one that having secured the ball from Delph’s header Aguero would almost certainly have tried to dribble forward. He may well have succeeded and scored a spectacular goal from 30 yards, clearly we’ll never know but what Jesus did was remind his team mates the benefit of making good runs which get rewarded. If you make the kind of run Sterling undertook six times and fail to get the ball played to you each time eventually you think ‘**ck this’, you don`t bother on the seventh occasion…which is when your team mate decides to pass to you rather than using you as a decoy. In the second instance he demonstrated the appropriate way to be aggressive in pressuring opponents and recovering the ball, something which Aguero has started to endeavour to do more frequently of late but still needs to improve on in my opinion. In fact Jesus reminded me a lot of the Sergio we saw back in 2011 making his debut against Swansea. This young man has a bright future.

The other main positive from the game was the successful completion of a full 90+ minutes by Vincent Kompany. It was a joy to see him back to his imperious best and although probably only playing at 75% he was clearly thrilled to have gotten through the whole game without issue. Welcome back Vinnie. Whether he will play another full match in such quick succession is a separate matter and I would not be surprised to see Otamendi returned to the defence for the trip to the London Stadium. Definitely set for a return will be Fernandinho who has completed his suspension and also we can expect to see the resumption of goalkeeping duties by the very much maligned Claudio Bravo.

There are slight doubts for West Ham regarding the fitness of Carroll and Noble but both have ‘1 Feb’ down as a return date on (I know) so I would expect them to start. Antonio offers a massive threat and they have Lanzini back again so the City players cannot just assume that they are replaying the same game from 6th January – there is no room for any complacency or slow starts.

We are fast approaching the business end of the season and with the following domestic fixtures being against Swansea, Bournemouth, Sunderland and Stoke this is exactly the time to start this period with a solid win to fill the sails with wind before we approach the dangerous waters of the consecutive games against Liverpool, Arsenal at the end of March and early April. (I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Manchester derby, postponed because of the League Cup final, parachuted into the middle of that lot by the way). The team should be brimming with confidence after their performance against Palace and there can be no better time to reinforce that result in the cup than with another in the league.

On a final footnote it was great to see the manager and captain ensure that the whole team headed across to acknowledge the City fans after the game on Saturday. I appreciated it and it is reassuring that Pep knows the value that the support of the fans can offer to his team.

Come on City!!!

Team News

Man City:
Out – Gundogan
Doubt? – Aguero

West Ham:
Out – Ogbonna; Sakho; Masuaku; Tore; Arbeloa
Doubt? – Carroll; Noble

City are without Gundogan and have a slight doubt regarding Aguero who missed the trip to Palace with a ‘knock’.

For West Ham there are doubts against Carroll and Noble but I would expect both to play.

Last 8 Form (all comps)

West Ham United WWWLLLWW
Manchester City WWLWWLDW

Previous meeting (last 6 matches)

FAC 06/01/17 West Ham 0 Man City 5 W
EPL 28/08/16 Man City 3 West Ham 1 W
EPL 23/01/16 West Ham 2 Man City 2 D
EPL 19/09/15 Man City 1 West Ham 2 L
EPL 19/04/15 Man City 2 West Ham 0 W
EPL 25/10/14 West Ham 2 Man City 1 L

Goals – West Ham 7 City 14
Y Cards – West Ham 11 City 8
R Cards – West Ham 0 City 0


City have scored at least 2 goals in 9 out of their last 11 matches against West Ham.

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