Manchester City vs. West Ham United: 6 Things We Learned
City manager Manuel Pellegrini started a muted XI against Blackburn Rovers four days earlier in the third round of the FA Cup and paid a stiff price in the form of a Jan. 15 replay.
He made no such mistake against the Hammers, who played from the opening whistle as though any number of goals they conceded in the single digits would be a moral victory.
It was impossible to believe that City and West Ham play in the same league during this match. Of course, with the Hammers languishing in the drop zone on the Premier League table, that might not remain true for long.
Here are six takeaways from Manchester City 6-0 West Ham United.
Manuel Pellegrini's Relationship with the Truth Is Sometimes Complicated
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini was asked in the run-up to City's first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final tie with West Ham United whether he was unduly focused on securing his first trophy.
“After we beat West Ham we can talk about the final at Wembley, but we have two steps more to beat West Ham here and then in London," Pellegrini demurred, according to Richard Jolly of ESPNFC.com.
Well, you would never know that Pellegrini was half in against the Hammers based on the XI he picked.
Joe Hart and Fernandinho were the only healthy regular starters who did not take the pitch at the outset. Pellegrini has two healthy strikers right now in Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko. They both started. So did Yaya Toure, David Silva, Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta and Samir Nasri.
Pellegrini took a great deal of risk (more on that in a bit) by firing so many of his biggest guns against a West Ham United side that had been blown out 5-0 by a championship Nottingham Forest side in their last match.
Fortunately for Pellegrini, the tactic worked about as well as he could have asked.
How Manchester City Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Pellegrini's game plans emphasize possession and gradual work through sequential passing to create quality chances for the strikers.
When City are operating at top speed, this strategy is beautiful to watch, unless you happen to be wearing Arsenal's colors at the Etihad. Or Tottenham's. Or Norwich City's. Or, well, you get the point.
Sometimes, though, it is nice to quit with the exposition and get right to the car crash.
Yaya Toure's towering pass over the top of West Ham's defenders to a waiting Alvaro Negredo in the 12th minute was exquisitely placed and seemed to catch everyone in the stadium but Negredo by surprise. That was fortunate for City, since he buried the chance with aplomb.
In American football, a forward pass over the top of the defenders to a waiting receiver is known as a "bomb."
Toure delivered a bomb to Negredo to rival any toss by Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. And Toure did it with his foot!
City Fans Watched the Whole Season Flash Before Their Eyes When Yaya Toure Fell
Manchester City have more than a dozen players that any Premier League side would love to take off their hands (if only they could afford to).
Sergio Aguero, Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko are all elite strikers. Fernandinho, David Silva and Samir Nasri make midfield magic. Vincent Kompany is one of the best centre-backs in the world when he is fully healthy.
With the exception of Aguero, though, none of those players means as much to City as Yaya Toure does. Which is why seeing Toure crumpled in a heap in the attacking half in the 22nd minute terrified the Etihad partisans.
Why did he start 32 of a possible 38 Premier League matches for City in the past two seasons under Roberto Mancini? Because he was in Africa on national team duty for the Ivory Coast. Otherwise, he probably would have started 35 league matches like he did in 2010-2011.
Toure is probably the only Sky Blue who cannot be replaced. Not in the transfer market, not from City's roster and not through the combined efforts of his teammates.
If you doubt that statement, watch footage of his goal in the 40th minute against West Ham. That is what unstoppable force looks like.
And it allowed ever City fan to breathe a huge sigh of relief about the big man's health with four trophy chases still under way.
Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko Did the Business for Manchester City
For anyone who thought Alvaro Negredo's early-season success at Manchester City was a byproduct of his partnership with a "better" player in Sergio Aguero, those thoughts have been proved wrong.
Negredo scored a brace against West Ham United in less than half an hour and secured his hat-trick before the 50th minute. The Hammers had to know that the Sky Blues' offensive game plan was most likely geared toward getting the ball to City's No. 9.
If Sam Allardyce's men knew where the ball was going, they had a funny way of showing it.
Negredo outran several defenders to corral Yaya Toure's long aerial pass to volley his first goal. His second tally came off a nifty through pass from Edin Dzeko.
Dzeko, who has found himself in Negredo's shadow in recent times, deserves credit for his concerted and noticeable willingness to play within the team concept. He set up Negredo whenever the chance presented itself.
And Dzeko's teammates seemed to value his contribution; even after Negredo had put the match out of reach, the Sky Blues' playmakers were force-feeding the ball to Dzeko to get him on the scoresheet.
Gael Clichy's cross to Dzeko in the 60th minute was a striker's dream, and Dzeko's strike in the 89th minute was pure class.
Negredo and Dzeko were helped in their efforts by inept defending from West Ham. But there was no discounting the excellence of City's striking duo on this day.
Cup Competitions Have a Curious Role in Manchester City's Grand Design
With Manchester City leading a Capital One Cup semi-final match 5-0 after 60 minutes at the Etihad, the manager and fans must have had one overriding thought...
Please, Sky Blues, stay on your feet and get to the dressing room intact.
Even for a shrewd accountant like Arsene Wenger, who isn’t alone in having fan pressure affect his approach to the Cup, the risk/reward analysis doesn’t add up. Despite its sentimental appeal, you have to ask where the FA Cup stands on the priority list for teams currently enjoying life in the Premier League. Is even the possibility of losing a player like Walcott worth advancing in the tournament?
Manchester City are still alive in the FA Cup. They are going to be beyond prohibitive favorites to advance to the Capital One Cup final after the second leg of this draw is played on Jan. 21.
Would City view losing Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero or Vincent Kompany to long-term injury in a domestic cup match—like Koremenos put it with reference to the Walcott injury—as "a cost of doing business"?
And before you answer that question, how would it feel to watch City take on Barcelona in a Champions League match without one of their best players available?
With that in mind, why did it take almost 79 minutes for Alvaro Negredo to get off the pitch against West Ham? Why did Toure even start the second half?
"The risk/reward analysis doesn't add up."
Sam Allardyce May Not Be Managing West Ham United for the Second Leg of This Tie
American comedian Adam Carolla has a Twitter meme called #soundsbetterthanitis. Great examples are "friendly fire" and "Continental breakfast."
"Vote of confidence" is another one, and the vote of confidence that West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce received on the heels of the Hammers' 5-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest to fall out of this year's FA Cup may turn out to have sounded much better in the moment than it will thereafter.
“I’m obviously pleased by the united front we are trying to keep under these difficult times at the moment,” Allardyce said recently, according to Kevin Palmer of ESPNFC.com. “When it comes public from the co-chairmen it is nice to see and hear. From our point of view we all understand the difficult position we are in at the moment."
Allardyce's players reacted to management's backing of the boss by conceding within 12 minutes and never seriously threatening to score, win or even draw.
West Ham will host City for the second leg of this tie on Jan. 21. Allardyce will do well to still be on the payroll by then.