West Ham 0-3 City: Five Thoughts

Ian Walton

The faintest of faintest hopes were extinguished barely two minutes in when Alvaro Negredo took advantage of some slack marking to head City into an early lead. Whilst not quite a pedestrian training ground affair City didn't need to be at their sharpest and often weren't yet despite the many changes they were able to manufacture passages of quality in attack which was in evidence for all three goals. Sky Sports showed a graphic post match that stated City had scored 92 of their 106 goals from the inside the box. The league average since 2010 is around 80% (hat tip to @adlacarsa_ESPN) so (and also accounting for the fact that they have netted eight direct free kicks) City are well above the average for scoring goals from inside the box; further evidence of their attacking potency.

The luxury of a 6-0 first leg lead allowed for plenty of rotation and Marcos Lopes, touted as the latest 'next big thing' certainly took advantage. Playing on the left hand side in the Nasri/Silva role he showed a sure touch, sweet left foot, ability to pick a pass and a confidence that suggested he indeed possesses a precocious talent. He came away with two assists (the first a beauty to tee up Negredo's opener), the man of the match award and a ringing endorsement from Manuel Pellegrini who said post-match: 'he didn't impress me because I see him working every day. He has a great future'. It will hard for any young player to break into this City side but you get the feeling that Lopes will be difficult to keep out over the next 12-18 months.

Pellegrini also took the opportunity to give much-needed minutes to both Jack Rodwell and Stevan Jovetic in the second half. Both have been beset with injuries that has stymied their progress this season. The nature of their injuries has been such that they will need not to be rushed back (hence getting just under 30 minutes this evening) but not only the wealth of talent but form of others (notably Negredo, Javi Garcia and Edin Dzeko) has meant their absence has not particularly been felt. Rodwell and Jovetic do have plenty of potential yet the feeling persists that when looking at the make up of the side and formation that both are the odd man out in terms of not quite fitting in to the midfield and attack respectively. Can either - assuming they stay injury free - force their way in?

We've again credited the attacking side of the game but another clean sheet was chalked up tonight. City has possessed the best defensive record in the Premier League for the past couple of seasons and despite their early season issues I'd take them to repeat this season again. One player who was excellent tonight was Joleon Lescott who outshone Matija Nastasic. With Martin Demichelis now starting alongside Vincent Kompany it means Lescott has fallen even further down the depth chart and it was telling that after the game he was extremely non-committal about his future amidst increasing speculation that he will depart before the end of January should a replacement be found. It may well be that Lescott himself is pushing for a move, attempting for one last push to make the England World Cup squad but given Kompany's recent fitness history and the problems this has caused City's planning it would be a huge risk to allow him to leave, even accounting for a new arrival.

A date at Wembley then and whoever progresses through to face City will undoubtedly go into the game as underdogs given City's current form. So, who do you prefer to face in the final? Sunderland or United. Here's your poll:

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