Manchester City v West Ham United
Saturday 19th September, 5:30pm KO
Live on Sky Sports
Referee: Robert Madley
Get in Kelechi lad. I’ll give it the big. I. AM. for moment as I was never in doubt that Kelechi would make an impact at Manchester City. I’m no In Esteemed Kompany blog (vote for him at the football blog awards) but from the brief stints I saw of him in the EDS last season he had the look of a star in the making. That was confirmed to me when barryconlonsbaldspot and I went to watch them in the final game against the Rag U21s at the Academy. Of course the filth had called upon James Wilson a week earlier to help them over the line to the U21 league title and the build up was very much about United showing their faith in their academy and how rag captain Tony Thorpe was one to watch for the future,etc, etc. 90 minutes and two goals later United were reporting Kelechi to Premier League human resources as he bullied ‘the class of 15’ including a goal that came runner up in the goal of the season competition.
Fast forward to pre-season and in the brief amount that I saw of our pre-season tour (lunch time on a Monday…come on guys) he looked like a young lad we’d paid a couple of million quid for rather than an academy player taking his first steps into adult football. Happily, he scored with his first touch against Crystal Palace and gave us exhibit one in the tired notion that we “don’t give youth a chance!” Such was the bitterness of Sky and the BBC neither referred to him as an academy graduate and merely “the rookie.” Credit to Manuel too as after the game he told the media that he had the option to bring in another striker and instead chose to stick with Kelechi. Hopefully there is more to come.
I watched the Palace game by virtue of Sky’s game of the day and to be honest I wasn’t paying that much attention to it. Going in it was arguably going to be our toughest game of the season to date and with the absence of Sterling, Silva AND Aguero that task was made even harder. What that meant was that City were forced to re-establish a pattern of play as Nasri and Bony doesn’t create the same kind of movement of Silva and Kun. However I thought City did that even when Aguero went off and was replaced by De Bruyne; the new man created 5 chances more than any other player in the Premier League and they’ve had a four game head-start. Ultimately, if Navas tucks away that open goal I think we win the game comfortably.
The media will immediately latch onto the fact that Slavan Bilic’s men have already won at Arsenal and Liverpool. West Ham started their season at the beginning of July by virtue of winning the fair play league and immediately set about ensuring that they don’t qualify for it by the same method next season by having a player sent off in almost every leg of every round in the qualifiers. City fans will have fond memories of when City were forced to qualify for the UEFA cup as the fair play winners defeating EB Streymeur of the Faroe Islands in Barnsley and needing a penalty shootout to defeat Mitjyiland (I’m not googling the spelling) before eventually reaching the quarter finals 10 games later and going out narrowly to Hamburg in probably the best atmosphere at the Etihad to date. Sadly for Hammers fans they won’t be leaving Upton Park as Champions of the Europa League as they went out in qualifying but its ssemed to help them in the early stages of the season.
I saw the Arsenal game on the opening day and whilst Arsenal enjoyed the majority of the possession they failed to create anything more than half chances. West Ham’s goal was a mile coming when they won a free kick in Arsenal’s half, it was whipped in deep and the superb Payet out-jumped Petr Cech. Against Liverpool, as much as Rogers men were the victims of their own downfall, they exploited the home sides need to chase the game even at 0-0. At home West Ham have dropped points to everyone as they themselves are undone as they are forced to take the initiative themselves.
We will probably see a West Ham side content to sit deep and hit City on the break tomorrow as Sakho leads the line and is supported by the trio of Victor Moses, Dmitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini. The first two of those show the financial power of the Premier League perfectly as Moses signed a new four year contract with Chelsea just minutes before arriving. Moses, 24, is on his third loan club since joining Chelsea having just made 23 appearances for his parent club. I like Moses, I thought he was excellent at Wigan, but its hard to imagine that Mourinho is suddenly going to change his mind in 12 months time and integrate him into the team, suggesting that Chelsea just want to retain his economic rights to prevent him playing against them.
I’m a huge fan of Dmitri Payet and he along with the arrival of Andre Ayew in the Premier League from Marseille shows that players would rather play for middling Premier League club than challenge for the French league title.
There might never actually be a better time for West Ham to face City than this weekend as Vincent Kompany and Sami Nasri joined Clichy, Zabaleta and Delph in the treatment room.
As a result its probably a safe bet that Pellers will hand full debuts to Nicolas Otamendi and Kevin De Bruyne at centre back and right midfield respectively. It seems that Aguero is fit to play but personally with Spurs away looming I’d wonder if Bony might understudy to give Sergio more recovery time following his assault by Scott Dann on Saturday.
Just a quick mention for Rahem Sterling, the bin dippers would probably have been delighted that he missed a couple of sitters on Tuesday night but the key was he was getting in the right position to miss them and on another night he would have had a hat-trick. I’m confident he’ll make up for it in spades in time.
The defeat at home to Juventus has taken the wind out of the sails a little bit but City still dominated large spells of that game without ever really getting into top gear. I’m expecting Saturday to be a routine win even if we aren’t as fluid as we were against Chelsea purely because we’ve got to re-shuffle to accommodate for injuries.