The decision to implement a strong starting eleven paid off for Pep Guardiola as Manchester City electrified the London Stadium on Friday evening. Here are three things we learned from City’s approach to the FA Cup win against West Ham United:
1 - Intimidating opponents is always possible
In almost every dimension of offensive play, City was able to capitalize. They threw West Ham off balance and brought a sense of excitement to the game that has lacked in 2016.
The lethargy that has caused quite a few less than stellar performances disappeared thanks to aggressive movement through the wings channeled towards West Ham’s net. When the last pass finds the target like it did throughout the match, opponents will be on their heels and Guardiola’s boys can penetrate with greater frequency.
2 - The old guard can provide direction
City’s tried and true veterans provided leadership and finishing quality that allowed the game to turn in their favor. They were able to manipulate space and the mood of the game to open up play in an exemplary fashion.
The chances created and taken by John Stones and Raheem Sterling point to waves of confidence rippling from the veterans to the newer members of the club. These performances will serve as vindication of Guardiola’s simple insistence that time is necessary for the squad to gel.
3 - Pep still isn't happy
Friday’s outstanding win will need to be seen as simply a beginning. When the cameras found Guardiola after most of Friday’s goals, he was seen deep in conversation with his staff or jumping to the touch line with fresh information.
The objectives for this game were clear and the result paves a clearer road into the near future. Consistency will be the key as the teams moves into the depths of winter with Chelsea’s streak halted for the time being.
As the club looks at potential winter transfers and continues honing tactics and character of play, the display against West Ham should be seen as a key into unlocking the muscle that City can use to gain ground in their multiple tournaments.