Date: 27th December 2014 at 4:59pm
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It was a white Christmas for City at the Hawthorns as the strikerless sensations came to town at West Bromwich yesterday. Having set down their marker last week by putting three past the luckless Crystal Palace, City continued in similar vein in the Midlands, dismissing the Baggies with disdain.

This is generally an entertaining, high scoring fixture as both teams generally use attacking styles. The Albion get the ball to their ever ready forwards, especially Berahino, quickly and this almost always creates problems where centre backs are forced to turn. But Berahino, despite an avalanche of goals early on in the season is now in the midst of a dry spell, which was the only thing dry at the Hawthorns yesterday.

Pellegrini tinkered slightly with his starting eleven, rotating his full backs with Sagna and Clichy replacing Kolarov and Zaba. With Demichelis and Mangala once again the only two fit centre backs, the Engineer positioned Fernando in front of them and everybody else was effectively a forward thinking midfielder, where just about anybody could spring forward.

And that spring forward commenced after only eight minutes as City loaded the right hand side. Navas hared through the gap, played it back to Yaya who had also found space and played the one-two. Navas found the right cross and the ubiquitous ex-Stretford, this time Foster dropped it into the path of the blossoming Fernando who hooked it over his own head and into the net.

Unable to hide behind their defensive looking formation any more, the Baggies set off in search of the equaliser but in reality they simply set themselves up for more incisive counter-style attacking and only three mimutes later Navas once again slipped clear of the shackles tapping it inside to Silva.

The silky smooth man for the Canaries tormented his former team-mate Lescott, whose challenge was a little late and a little clumsy as he brought down the Magician giving Mark Clattenburg no option but to point to the spot. Up stepped Yaya with his stop-start approach to hammer the ball into the side netting giving Foster, who went the right way, no chance at all.

One thing we do know is that is it unlikely that City will concede three goals from a 2-0 lead and there is probably only one side in the Barclays Premier League capable of doing that, so with little more than eleven minutes on the clock this match was more or less done and dusted, although we will recall that last season, City allowed West Brom to recover from 0-3 to 2-3 leaving City desperate for the final whistle.

Today City pressed on. Yes Berahino inexplicably missed two of the kind of chances that he would have netted maybe a month ago, but that apart, Joe Hart was pretty well untroubled.

So City pressed on with Fernando dispossessing the Albion inside the City half and then sprinting into the spaces they had left open. Navas made an intelligent overlap and was available when the pass came, moving it rapidly inside to Silva who had neatly halted his run to create space and confuse the retreating defenders. Silva calmly stepped inside and unleashed the neatest of shots across Foster and into the opposite corner of the net. This was a truly wonderful goal which epitomises City`s football these days. The football scythed its way through the Baggies defence before generating its moment of beauty as the Spaniard claimed his third goal in two matches.

From here on in it was a case of closing out the match and contending with the worsening weather conditions as the snow came down potentially causing a threat to the conclusion of the match. The Baggies tried hard to get onto the scoresheet but it looked as though they would come up empty until three minutes from time when a corner was untidily dealt with by Hart, rebounded off the head of Ideye in the style of the Goat reducing the arrears to 1-3. There were to be no other scares and City having seen Chelsea win 2-0 at home to West Ham earlier in the day clawed back another three points keeping them in touch with the wrong type of Blues at the head of the table.

West Brom look a shadow of the team that always brought a tough challenge to the top teams, especially over the last couple of seasons. They have lost their way on the field and have lost their way in terms of managerial appointments leaving Alan Irvine afraid for his own future. This looks like a project for Tony Pulis. The tools are there for the creation of a decent team. It seems to lack quality leadership and if Berahino continues to misfire, or is indeed traded in January, goals will be at a premium.

City, instead of looking desperate in the absence of all of the first team roster of forwards due to injury have found an additional way to play and at three goals-per-game it isn`t a bad one is it?

Following his injury, the re-emergence of David Silva is central and key to this. Also the re-engagement of Yaya Toure, who will no doubt be sore that, in his European absence through suspension, City have beaten Bayern Munich and Roma in order to ensure qualification from the group stages of the Champions League. As the African Cup of Nations approaches, Yaya is playing the best football of his season, is once again scoring reasonably regularly and is once again, despite criticism from this writer, a vital ingredient in this City line-up.

The football being played here involves each one of the six midfielders, who all contribute with a different role. Some hold the line, some break the line. The opposition does not know who is likely to spring forward. It can be Milner and Navas, it can be Nasri and Silva, it can be Fernando and Yaya. It can be a nightmare for the opposition as Palace and the Baggies have discovered. Often their back four has no one to mark, and then City explode like a cascading firework and hit the defence with movement and passing that is difficult to defend against. Couple that with the ability to create and score goals and barring further injuries City can relax their rush to get Aguero back into the fold.

It is refreshing with matches against Arsenal and Chelsea popping their head above the horizon towards the end of January. By then Sergio should be back and hopefully firing on the cylinders he was using before his injury.

Kompany could return in the next match, but once again I hope City do not hurry him. Demichelis seems to have had a steadying effect on Mangala who is now starting to look something like what City thought they had bought.

Rumours do not go away from suggesting that Milner could be a target for the under-achievers at Ashburton Grove and Anfield in January, but City would be mental to let him go. I know Sue would like to see him touching the famous sign every other weekend, whereas I only want to look at it once. It is time that Sr Soriano sat down with his pen and encouraged England`s best midfielder on current form to sign up for another couple of years. Oh, sorry. I forgot that because he has played three unhindered matches Carrick is the best English midfielder. My mistake. There`s a lot of “3-and-in” going on in the spin capital of Premier League Football positioned just outside Manchester, where after six superb saves, De Gea has been promoted from “No-save-Dave” to the world`s best, and after a few matches without getting injured, people are starting to rate Phil Jones! Why? Answers on a post card via Royal Mail. At least that way we know they won`t get delivered.

So Chelsea and City continue their battle at the top of the league and both teams know they have to keep on winning. One will probably lose on 31 January in a match that may not decide the destination of the Premier League title, but will go a long way towards it. City need to be the team that come out on top.

Burnley are up next at the Etihad, followed by Sunderland. Both potentially seasonal banana skins but both clearly beatable. There are no easy games in this division, so will City their winning streak intact? You can read all about it in the next Ped Report.

 
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