Five things we learned from Man City v West Ham
The champions’ 3-0 win over the Hammers put them firmly back in the driving seat of the title race on a night that was full of statistical milestones and confidence-boosting performances, which may shape the outcomes of both teams’ seasons, writes Rachel Roberts.
Record-breaking Haaland’s in his own League of LegendsEmbed from Getty Images
It’s official: Erling Haaland is a Premier League legend. To be fair, this is hardly something we learned only last night. From the first game of the season – also against West Ham way back in August – when a Haaland brace secured the win and got the man off the mark, it was clear it would only be a matter of when, not if, he would be breaking records.
In a full-circle moment, West Ham were the opponents as Haaland’s deft chip over keeper Lukasz Fabianski in the 70th minute (proof he can do more than just tap-ins,) made the Norseman’s legend status statistically undeniable. The first man to score 35 goals in a single Premier League season – one ahead of Andy Cole and Alan Shearer – all with five games to spare. But as usual the towering frontman took it all in his stride as he revealed he’d be celebrating with a quiet night in at home playing some video games.
But before he could turn his attention from goalscoring witchcraft to Minecraft, his team-mates congratulated his achievement with a guard of honour. Despite hitting a major milestone in last night’s fixture, Haaland confirmed to Sky Sports post-match that he would swap his goals for three trophies. As ever, it’s only when the silverware rolls in that the real success can be counted.Embed from Getty Images
1,000 and counting under Guardiola
Another stat sure to put a ‘Pep’ in his step, City reached a landmark 1,000 goals in all competitions under Guardiola’s management, with Phil Foden’s deflected strike five minutes from time the cherry on top of a special night for the club.
No team has scored more since Guardiola’s arrival in 2016, and he has achieved his feat in 150 games fewer than previous record holder, Arsene Wenger. Averaging just under 2.5 goals per game en route to the 1,000, the future of City’s goalscoring feats shows no signs of slowing down, if Haaland and Co continue to fire them in for fun.
Hammers still have to do the basics…Embed from Getty Images
For all of Haaland’s aura, or of City’s (now statistically) legendary strike-power, none of these were actually able to provide the breakthrough in this clash. Rather, West Ham’s defensive resilience was undone by a set-piece, as Nathan Ake found the space to head in a free-kick five minutes after half-time. For the hosts, this was another indicator of the strength of their well-roundedness as an attacking side, but for David Moyes this was a hammer blow after keeping the champions at bay as long as they did.
Moyes cited squad depletion as a factor in conceding the opening goal; illness swept through the squad to rule out Declan Rice, Nayef Aguerd, and Tomas Soucek all before kick-off. As he explained to the club’s official website post-match, “We had lost some of the lads who would be more reliable aerially and we were always short tonight in that department, and it ended up being the case for the first goal.”
…But they’re just keeping their heads above waterEmbed from Getty Images
With a relegation battle as close as this, the Hammer’s form makes for wretched reading, with three defeats in their last three games. They currently sit 15th; four points clear of Nottingham Forest in 18th and have crunch games against Leeds and Leicester to come. However, their determined first-half showing against the champions should provide confidence going forward, especially considering the absence of key players.
With a return to full health, West Ham should feel that with similar performances they can pick up the necessary points to secure their survival. Other teams around them arguably face tougher ties – those which read challenging on paper or momentous six-pointer clashes. Consequently, West Ham should find themselves in the fortunate position of there being three teams in the league worse than themselves. Though how fortunate it can feel to be in one of the closest relegation scraps in years remains to be seen…
Pep rotates, but never weakensEmbed from Getty Images
Likely with one eye on the season-defining Champions League semi-final first-leg against Real Madrid next Tuesday, Guardiola fielded a changed side from the one which beat Fulham, including bringing in Stefan Ortega in goal in place of Ederson, and Ake for the favoured Manuel Akanji in defence. Though always risky if it doesn’t pay off, Pep’s plans came to fruition, with the opening goal through Ake and a clean sheet for Ortega on his Premier League debut.
So, the winning momentum towards Madrid continues, and Guardiola’s squad is so strong that the endless run of fixtures never seems to hinder them. With strength in depth the treble remains very much in play. There could soon be a champagne supernova on the streets of Manchester (the blue half, at least).
Follow Rachel on Twitter @rachellrobertts
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