West Ham 2 Man City 2
What is it with Manchester City? The most expensively assembled squad in the Premier League, the best striker in England and a top goalkeeper, and yet they cannot string two wins together.
You have to go back to mid-October to find the last time Manuel Pellegrini’s men won back-to-back Premier League games, when they demolished Bournemouth 5-1 a fortnight after thrashing Newcastle 6-1.
On Saturday, they did not go remotely close to matching those heady days, when City looked best-placed to take advantage of Chelsea’s travails and Manchester United’s ongoing problems.
Now their main rivals for the league are Arsenal and Leicester, yet they continue with their inconsistency to the season’s finale.
Against West Ham they were clearly second-best in most parts of the pitch, and but for the he heroics of Joe Hart and poaching instincts of Sergio Aguero, City would have left Upton Park empty-handed.
Aguero had to equalise twice after Enner Valencia capitalised on sloppy defending from Nicolas Otamendi and Martin Demechelis, the Laurel and Hardy of Premier League defenders.
Hart kept City in the game with an astonishing save to push away a free-kick from Dmitri Payet, who showed the sort of guile and creativity Pellegrini could do with.
And it was not just Payet.
City’s once-powerful midfield was outfought and out-thought by West Ham, for whom Alex Song was back to his best.
The Cameroon midfielder had ankle surgery last summer, shortly after extending his loan spell from Barcelona, but he was head and shoulders above Yaya Toure, who looks like he has already mentally moved on from City.
Not that Pellegrini saw it that way. “No, I don’t remember too many important saves of Joe Hart, just the free kick.
Pellegrini admits that Kompany is at least three weeks away from returning, and is desperate for Aguero to stay fit after more absences this season.
Pellegrini appears to be unconcerned by City’s lack of consistency, and points out that they will play their top three rivals at home. “We are just three points off Leicester and we have to play them, Arsenal and Tottenham at home.”
Yet City lost at home to West Ham in September, when Slaven Bilic admitted it was like “the Alamo” as his team withstood City’s onslaught. It was a different story on Saturday, with the Hammers feeling as though they had dropped two points. But Bilic remains a fan of the way City play.
“I like them. If you ask me as a football fan, I would always go to watch Man City, with their quality. I think they were missing two or three players at the back, but it was more about us being good up front.
Bilic believes former Arsenal man Song is starting to show his best form again.
“He showed what kind of quality he has got and after a long injury he needed that.
“He is great in every aspect, and I hope he can maintain this kind of performance. I am a big Song fan.”
Song himself believes there is more to come: “I’m not back to my best yet. It was seven months that I didn’t play.
“I need time to play games, but it is hard for the manager when the team is doing well.
“But I was really happy with how I played. When you play against a player like Yaya or David Silva, you have to be ready.
“That’s why today was very good for me, to see the level I can reach at the moment, when I am not 100 per cent fit.”
WEST HAM: Adrian 7; Jenkinson 5 (Byram 13, 7), Collins 7 Reid 7 Cresswell 6: Antonio 6 (Moses 64), Kouyate 7 Song 8 Noble 7 Payet 8; Valencia 7 (Jelavic 86).
MAN CITY: Hart 8; Sagna 6 Otamendi 5 Demichelis 5 Clichy 6; Delph 6 (Iheanacho 76, 7) Toure 5: Navas 6 (Sterling 67, 6), Silva 6 (Fernando, 83), De Bruyne 6: Aguero 8
Referee: Craig Pawson
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