My distaste for Manchester City’s business model has been well-documented on EPL Talk, but watching City host West Ham United yesterday, I am starting to begrudgingly accept it: City have arrived.
Last season, poor away results and hit-or-miss form proved while City could spend on the top players, they couldn’t will consistent chemistry into their side. There are some things you cannot buy, I assured myself (while knowing too well, the shaky results couldn’t last). Finishing 10th after splashing such serious cash must have had its sting.
Another transfer window gone by and City have simply added too much quality in their ranks to deny them. And as they are three points behind the league leaders with a game in hand (and their only loss a controversial one to Manchester United), City would be hard pressed to come up with a better start to a league season.
Many supporters of title-contending clubs might, for now, be bitter about the seemingly endless stoppage time United were awarded on the 20th of September, allowing Michael Owen to score the winner. But who knows? Come the final weeks of the season, depending on United’s form, supporters of the clubs still in the race may be relieved that City were denied that extra point. It wouldn’t surprise me anyway.
It was still strange, though, to look at City’s starting lineup yesterday. Martin Petrov is the only starter who’s been playing at City for more than one full season. Everyone else in that eleven has come in since the 2008 summer transfer window. And seven of the starters have come in only since last January.
It was almost refreshing to see Martin Petrov, the one starter from pre-takeover days, impose himself on the match as such: assisting Tevez’s goal with a brilliant low pass, scoring a wonderful free-kick to retake the lead, and looking up to the task all match. At 30, Petrov still has plenty of spark and while the expensive quality on the pitch around him was what dominated the Hammers, it was nice to see the £4.7m man (Petrov’s transfer fee from Atletico Madrid in 2007) make the difference. It may be an arbitrary distinction at this point. But I take comfort in these kind of things.
That being said: West Ham, despite their problems this season, put up a good fight against City, as they did against Liverpool.
In my humble (yet irrepressible) opinion, West Ham’s four points on the season and third-from-bottom placement on the table are an unfair representation of the state of things for the East London club.
In the City match, West Ham were a bit unlucky to see a foul called on Carlton Cole after he put in a great ball to Scott Parker who knocked it home. Had the goal been allowed, perhaps the Hammers could have turned the tide or at least held onto a point. Instead, City would regain their momentum in the second half and put the match away with another goal from Tevez who headed home Craig Bellamy’s free-kick.
And against Liverpool the Hammers equalized twice with a penalty and Carlton Cole scoring off a corner. Liverpool won with a 75th minute Torres header, but the Hammers put up a firm fight, creating strong chances and with Cole looking deadly throughout the match.
Despite the poor results lately and struggles with injuries, if Hammers can hold on to their best players in the upcoming transfer windows (especially Carlton Cole) and if Gianfranco Zola can continue to bring out the flair and drive in a West Ham side that’s been wonderful to watch, I’m certain they’ll make this current slump a distant memory.
Furthermore, when the new rules take hold, West Ham will be one club sure to benefit, with their well-established Academy and a solid collection of English players already in the ranks.
For now Zola is still coming to grips with his first stint as head manager. But I see a club on the rise, however slow their start to this season may be.