Wednesday 1st February 19.45
It seems like an age since last we had a premier league tie to preview. There’s been League Cup action and F.A. Cup action since last we spoke and a whole lot of transfers in between. One said player-switch which is quite pertinent with regard to this tie has been the somewhat reluctant jettisoning of one-time West Ham demi-god, Dmitri Payet. By all accounts, the Frenchman has been a disruptive influence since the beginning of the season and although the club hierarchy appeared keen to make an example of Payet by leaving him rot away in reserves, they acquiesced to their manager’s request and let the want-away playmaker go back across to France, pocketing £10 million or so profit on their original investment.
Leeches and blood-letting
The hope for West Ham must be that, even though they have lost their most talented player, the team as a whole will benefit by an improvement in the esprit de corps. Certainly, they have handsomely won their last two league games against Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough respectively by an aggregate of six goals scored and just one conceded. However, this would be to overlook the match that preceded the win over Palace – a five nil home loss to Manchester City in the F.A. Cup. It is also important to note that this wasn’t a West Ham team full of youth and squad players so the team that takes to the pitch against City on Wednesday night may still be raw after such a severe spanking.
Pff, I’d win La Liga if I had that team – alternative facts
The City side which faced West Ham that night was also close to full strength and won handsomely but then suffered the ignominy of losing 4-0 away to Everton in their following game. This was the final piece of proof that their detractors needed in the case against Pep Guardiola – Look! He is a fraud, plain as the nose on your face. Ha! We rest our case, your Honour. Regular readers will know that this column has no time for the culture (so to speak) of megaphone immediacy which surrounds and assaults our senses on a near constant basis. Instead, it is fair to say that City were out-thought and out-fought by the Toffees and fully deserved their loss.
Bottle and fight
However, they were not quite the busted flush that most, including this column, thought that they were. We previewed their next match, a tie which saw them welcome a rampaging Tottenham Hotspur to the Etihad or whatever it’s called, and did not have the wit nor the smarts to imagine that they could so effectively turn their form around. True, the game ended in a 2-2 draw but to use the parlance of British tabloids, they was robbed. Without delving too deeply into the details, some poor play on the part of the officials played a big part in the eventual result.
Getting back on the horse
The point is that, contrary to what many of us thought, there is some fight in this team and an ability to dig and turn things around. The great new Brazilian hope, Gabriel de Jesus, has looked bright in his games so far and one would assume that Guardiola sees him as the heir apparent to Sergio Aguero. He certainly seems to work harder around the pitch than Aguero does, a trait which the manager values highly. Whichever of the pair start, they will likely be up against new West Ham purchase, Jose Fonte, an astute central defensive purchase from Southampton
One suspects that West Ham have turned a corner of late since their abject start to the season. They’ve dragged themselves away from the mire and are now comfortably mid-table, level on points with Stoke at the time of writing. City are 5th and 12 points off the top. It is probably too much to expect them to challenge for the title but they can certainly do enough to secure a top 4 finish. West Ham should make a fight of this but, going on their recent performance against Spurs, we think that City should have the mental wherewithal to get all three points from this game. The best price for a City win is 6/10 and comes from BetStars.