Man City turned in another stunning performance at the London Stadium as West Ham were beaten 4-0 on their own patch. In a thoroughly one-side affair, goals from Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Gabriel Jesus and Yaya Toure equalled their biggest Premier League win of the campaign. It was further evidence that City might just be clicking into top gear at just the right time.
What happened? With the memory of the 5-0 win against the Hammers still fresh, City could be forgiven for thinking this meeting would be a much more closely contested affair. Since then, the Hammers have improved markedly and the Dimitri Payet controversy has finally ended. Yet there’s something about the London Stadium the Blues thoroughly enjoy – the pitch is bigger than the majority of Premier League clubs and City have the players to exploit the extra space. Pep Guardiola made three changes from the side that beat Crystal Palace 3-0 at the weekend, but the youthful front three of Gabriel Jesus, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling retained their places. With Willy Caballero also keeping his place, the City boss brought back Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones and Kevin De Bruyne all recalled. The teams exchanged a few early blows as they wrestled for control, but City gradually began to pull the strings with – inevitably - skipper Silva and De Bruyne at the heart of everything. The hosts lasted 17 minutes before finally falling behind. It began when Aaron Cresswell played a wayward pass to the feet of De Bruyne on the halfway line – the Belgian drove forward, played it wide to Gabriel Jesus who played an inch-perfect ball back and De Bruyne slotted the ball home from 12 yards. Four minutes later the Blues had doubled their lead. Sane won the ball on the left but still had plenty of work to do, but the power and pace he skipped past two West Ham defenders will have sent a chill down the spine of defences up and down the land and his low cross was tapped in at the far post by Silva. From there on, the Blues picked apart the West Ham defence at will and the only surprise was the third goal didn’t come until the 39th minute. It began with Yaya Toure winning possession back in the City half and then Sane drove forward, found Sterling who in turn played in Gabriel Jesus who tucked the ball home for his first goal in English football. It had been a stunning performance, but it was only at the halfway point. The home side came out determined to take something out of the game and some of the challenges were a little overzealous, but it stemmed the tide for a while, though not completely. On 67 minutes De Bruyne picked up the ball on the right before bending a superb pass behind the Hammers’ defence into the path of Sterling who drew a foul of debutant Jose Fonte and a penalty was awarded. Yaya Toure made no mistake to preserve his 100% record from the spot and give City a 4-0 lead their masterful performance merited – how the West Ham fans must be sick of the sight of the Blues this season! There were no major chances for either side in the time that remained as the Blues eased their foot off the gas, perhaps with one eye on Sunday’s game against Swansea. The front three of Sane, Sterling and Gabriel Jesus will give Guardiola a headache he won’t mind. The speed, tenacity and movement – not to mention the tracking back and hard work – mean the boss will be reluctant to change a combination that has sparked to life immediately. The three amigos were at the heart of all three opening goals and will create many more in games to come.
What it means… City have made ground on all the teams above them in this round of Premier League fixtures – in fact it’s hard to imagine a better set of results this week. Two points have been gained on leaders Chelsea, plus Spurs and Liverpool, while the Blues have clawed back three points on Arsenal. Not only that, but City’s goal difference is inferior to all the teams around them – this result improves it considerably.
What’s next? The Blues are at home on Sunday to struggling Swansea City – though the Swans have won three of their last four games including an impressive victory at Liverpool. With Chelsea facing Arsenal this weekend, at least one of the Blues’ top four rivals will drop points, meaning three points is a must for Pep’s men.
West Ham United (0): Randolph, Fonte, Reid, Cresswell, Byram, Noble, Feghouli (Snodgrass 64), Antonio, Obiang (Fernandes 64), Lanzini, Carroll (Fletcher 77)
Manchester City (4): Caballero, Sagna, Otamendi, Stones, Kolarov, Touré, Sterling (Aguero 73), De Bruyne (Fernandinho 65), Silva (Delph 77), Sané, Jesus.
Goals: De Bruyne 16, Silva 21, Gabriel Jesus 39, Touré 68 (pen)
Referee: Kevin Friend. Bookings: Jesus 19, De Bruyne 42, Sterling 58 (Man City); Obiang 17, Lanzini 26, Carroll 73 (West Ham)