Three things we learned from Manchester City's convincing victory over West Ham
As an injury-hit West Ham travelled to the Etihad Stadium to face an on-fire Manchester City, expectations were low. Following Europa League defeat which knocked the Hammers out of the competition before the group stage for the second year running on Thursday night, some had hoped that players would be keen to repay their fans, but that was not the case.
In the seventh minute, Raheem Sterling opened the scoring and from then on, his side never looked like going back. Fernandinho’s header added a second to make it a comfortable lead for the Citizens at half-time, and even Michail Antonio’s second half goal failed to make a difference with Sterling rounding Adrian to seal off the victory in injury time.
Manchester City looked comfortable throughout and were not troubled by a blunt West Ham attack featuring young Ashley Fletcher, getting his first Premier League start for the club since signing permanently from City’s arch rivals Manchester United. With clinical finishing from Raheem Sterling making up for an off the boil Sergio Aguero; who was involved in a controversial incident featuring an elbow, Pep Guardiola’s men made it look easy.
Here’s what we can take from the game:
Raheem Sterling could flourish under Pep Guardiola
Since his big money move to the Etihad last summer from Anfield, Raheem Sterling has struggled to show the form which justified his price tag and made him one of the most promising young English talents in the game. In the second half of last season, he even struggled to break into the starting line-up, but early this season has shown a turn around.
Against West Ham, Sterling produced the kind of performance that earned him his big move to the Champions League. With two superb goals full of trickery, skill and quality, the youngster showed just how he has grown under Pep Guardiola since the arrival of the Spanish manager and with the increased freedom that his new boss has given him.
Playing in a more free role and drifting centrally, Sterling is able to make the most of his ability to find space and create gaps in defences with his blistering pace, and that was clearly on show as he tore the West Ham back three apart at the weekend. Now, reproducing this kind of performance on a regular basis will be the next challenge for Sterling.
Michail Antonio deserves his England call-up
Perhaps the most surprising name on the England squad sheet as Sam Allardyce named his squad to face Slovakia in his England debut on Saturday was West Ham’s right sided player Michail Antonio. However, with his second goal in as many games and one of the few positive performances in claret and blue, it’s clear to see why he got the call from the former Irons manager.
Whilst Antonio may have struggled to adapt to being a full-back, the ex-Nottingham Forest winger has shown that he may be the answer to a clear lack of wingers available to Big Sam as he seeks to bring the Three Lions back from a poor Euro 2016 campaign where the side were frequently criticised for a lack of wide players and width as a result.
With pace and strength, Antonio is not afraid to take on his man, and unlike many other similar players, is happy to track back and contribute defensively. The 26-year-old is also the Premier League’s top scorer with headers since the start of last season, which fits perfectly with Big Sam’s ideology of putting crosses into the box whenever possible.
Manchester City have established themselves as early favourites
Top of the league with three games played, and only three teams to have taken maximum points from their opening fixtures, Pep Guardiola has ensured that his side have lived up to expectations and established themselves as favourites and league leaders right from the very start.
No side has yet thrown any real threat to Guardiola’s team, with Stoke and West Ham; both respected sides, struggling to keep the Citizens out, whilst Sunderland benefitted from a lot of luck as they came closest to holding the Spaniard’s side to a point at the Etihad on the opening day.
With 62% possession and almost three times as many shots as Slaven Bilic’s side, Manchester City are beginning to show the signs of complete domination that Bayern Munich and Barcelona have showed under the Spaniard’s stewardship in the past as they have swept away all competition to win almost all of the titles available to them.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Craig Ballantyne.
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