Manchester City vs. Fulham: 6 Things We Learned in City Rout of Cottagers
Manchester City 5-0 Fulham may have felt like a preordained result before kickoff. But given the results around the Premier League, Manchester City had absolutely no margin for error against Felix Magath's Cottagers.
Liverpool and Chelsea scored six times apiece in dominant wins over Cardiff City and Arsenal, respectively. Everton held on for a narrow victory over Swansea City. So all the contending sides in the Premier League race picked up three points in the table.
Except Arsenal, who may be falling out of that category anyway.
Manchester City dispatched Fulham as though the task were a trip to the supermarket for a gallon of milk. After spilling their bucket at Hull City in their prior match, though, Manchester City were surely happy to have a laugher.
Here are six lessons from Manchester City's dominant victory over Fulham.
Manuel Pellegrini's Squad Rotation Was Necessary Given the Upcoming Fixture List
After hosting Fulham, Manchester City knew they would play at Old Trafford and at the Emirates in the course of five days.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini hopes to have star striker Sergio Aguero back by then. Whether the Argentine talisman of Pellegrini's side returns for the upcoming derby or not, though, the matches against Manchester United and Arsenal will be all-hands-on-deck tilts for Manchester City.
As such, Pellegrini had to rest the players he could rest and squeeze out a result with the others.
Joleon Lescott got a rare start with Vincent Kompany suspended for last week's red card. James Milner and Aleksandar Kolarov also made the XI.
With the result long since decided, Pellegrini sent forgotten Sky Blues Jack Rodwell and Stevan Jovetic on as late substitutions.
It is just unfortunate for Pellegrini that the rules limited him to three substitutions. By the end of the match, City could have emptied their entire bench and not lost a step.
Playing with 11 Against 10 Is so Much Easier Than Playing with 10 Against 11
What a difference a week makes.
In Manchester City's last match, captain Vincent Kompany received a straight red card and left the Sky Blues down a man at hostile Hull City for nearly 90 minutes (accounting for stoppage time).
Kompany's colleagues more than picked him up, earning a vital 2-0 win despite playing short-handed for so long.
Manchester City must have been pleased and a bit relieved to see the red card produced at the Etihad against Fulham's Fernando Amorebieta.
Amorebieta's foul against David Silva in the area in the 53rd minute was his second bookable infraction of the match, ending his day early. Yaya Toure converted the penalty (his second successful spot kick of the day), and the match was essentially over with more than a half-hour to go.
Anything that could help Manchester City's stars (Toure, Samir Nasri, David Silva and others) conserve some energy in the match's second half was welcome news to manager Manuel Pellegrini. A 37-minute power play absolutely qualifies.
Strikers? Manchester City Don't Need No Stinking Strikers!
With Aguero still hobbled and Edin Dzeko taken suddenly ill, per Paul Handler of the Manchester Evening News, Pellegrini had half as many striking options than normal.
Alvaro Negredo started up top alone and earned the first City spot kick, which Toure converted. Toure nailed the second penalty kick as well, then claimed his hat-trick with a gasp-inducing strike from outside the Fulham box.
Toure is a noted marksman, particularly for a midfielder. But City's other two goals in this match were scored by Fernandinho and Martin Demichelis, neither of whom is known for attacking prowess.
On a day where City's best strikers were unavailable, their quality elsewhere carried them.
Manchester City Necessarily Seized on an Opportunity to Add to Their Goal Total
With both Liverpool and Chelsea scoring six times elsewhere, Manchester City needed a similar goal output to protect their lead in goal difference.
They got it.
City's 5-0 win over Fulham kept City five goals ahead of the Reds and 10 goals ahead of the Blues in the goal column of the Premier League table. The next best goal difference in the league after Chelsea belongs to Arsenal, but the Gunners are 30 goals behind City.
With the points race seemingly headed to the league's final day, City's goal difference could serve as their league-winning tiebreaker for the second time in three seasons.
That is why the Citizens were so motivated to pour it on against a hapless and depleted Fulham late in the second half.
This Might Be the Year Fulham Finally Capitulates to Relegation
It is no secret that Fulham are a smaller football club than Manchester City. In recent seasons, though, Fulham have chugged along nicely in the Premier League, claiming a result here and there and churning out midtable results.
Often it has felt like Fulham were doing it with beguiling lighting, spit and baling wire, because the Cottagers never boast the sort of player a football fan would buy a ticket to see play. And no, Clint Dempsey does not qualify.
This season, the curtain hiding all of Fulham's magic from the rest of the league has burned down.
Fulham are on their third manager of the season and, through 31 matches played, are dead last in the table. One of the teams in the drop zone with them (Sunderland) has three matches in hand; a number of the other clubs near the bottom have a match to burn as against Fulham's total.
On current form, it is difficult to imagine Fulham earning enough of the 21 points still available to them to avoid starting the 2014-15 season in the Championship. They have 24 points out of 31 played, after all.
These are bleak times at Craven Cottage.
Dominoes May Be Falling for Manchester City in the Premier League Title Race
With Fulham behind them, Manchester City now head to Old Trafford for this season's second derby.
City caught a huge break earlier this week when the Red Devils' primary striker, Robin van Persie, was injured after putting United through to the Champions League quarterfinals with a hat-trick. The United man will miss four to six weeks, per Mark Ogden of The Telegraph.
After the United match, City will travel to London to take on Arsenal at the Emirates. Arsenal were most recently seen honoring and celebrating manager Arsene Wenger's 1,000th Premier League match as the Gunners manager by losing 6-0 and finishing with 10 men against Chelsea.
These two matches, which looked positively terrifying back to back when the schedule was released, are still formidable but far less scary given recent developments.
Looking at it from the perspective of United and Arsenal...would you want to take on City right now?