Analysis of West Ham's shock win at the Etihad Stadium, with a Stats Zone twist...
West Ham are kings of the counter-attack
After a disappointing Europa League campaign, Slaven Bilic’s team are now responding to his methods and look particularly dangerous when they have space to exploit. His 4-3-3 formation worked extremely hard without the ball, keeping their shape and choosing their opportunities to press led by Mark Noble. The system is perfect for matches away to the Premier League's leading side, and results have shown as much.
West Ham are clinical at present - their two goals in the first half came from just three shots on goal. Victor Moses' perfectly-struck effort squeezed past Joe Hart, before their second - which was a bit of a scramble, not that anyone in claret and blue was complaining - was bundled in by Diafra Sakho.
“This game was different to the game at the Emirates and Anfield,” said Bilic. “We expected that type of game because with the greatest respect to Liverpool and Arsenal this team is the best in the league.”
They survived the onslaught from Manchester City in the second period and remained resilient throughout. Bilic can now add the Etihad to his impressive collection of wins on the road, and the Croatian’s team are now second in the Premier League. “Where is it going to take us, I don’t know - but it should be good."
City still struggle without Kompany
Losing Vincent Kompany during Tuesday night's clash with Juventus was a huge blow to City - not least because the Italians' subsequent winner came after he had left the pitch, with the positioning of the two central defenders questionable as Alvaro Morata was allowed time and space to curl the ball in.
The Belgian hasn't started over 30 league games in a season since 2011-12, with last season's 23 starts the lowest tally since his debut season at the club. In short, it's in City's best interests to ensure they don't continue to miss his communication and organisational skills quite so massively.
That was certainly the case as they conceded their first two goals of the season in the league and their fourth in the last two games. Eliaquim Mangala and new signing Nicolas Otamendi are both clearly very talented defenders, but they'll need time to learn each other's game. The fact Martin Demichelis was thrown on for the injured Mangala at half-time only complicated matters.
Still, Demichelis did make a positive impact, as he looked to carry the ball into midfield and give the back four the composure it had been lacking in the first 45 minutes.
Dimitri Payet is a top six player
It was a surprise that more clubs didn’t try to sign Dimitri Payet when he became available in the summer. The £10.7 million signing from Marseille has been a consistent performer for the last two years in Ligue 1. The 28-year-old has now had a direct influence in 12 goals (four goals, eight assists) in his last 13 league appearances, although all the credit goes to Moses for his well taken finish on this occasion.
Payet's skill and speed enables him to get out of tight situations quickly, while he has the vision to find his fellow professionals in and around the area. The Frenchman has instantly looked at home in England, with a number of top sides wondering why they didn’t pay more interest to his exploits last term.
"He's one of those players, who's not only a great player and he's deciding games, but he makes all the players around him better," admitted manager Bilic after the attacking midfielder's brace against Newcastle on Monday. Payet had little chance to attack in the second half, but he demonstrated fantastic tactical discipline which isn’t often seen among flair players.
De Bruyne gives City options in the hole
With David Silva injured in the warm-up and Samir Nasri also sidelined, the stage was set for Kevin De Bruyne to take up the No.10 role on his full debut for his new club. The 24-year-old took the Bundesliga by storm in his 18 months with Wolfsburg and looks set to do the same in the Premier League.
The common consensus among supporters and pundits was that De Bruyne would be deployed on the right in place of Jesus Navas, and that would have been the case had Silva not unfortunately pulled-up before kick-off. From that position, De Bruyne was behind everything effective about City, as the league leaders bombarded West Ham's resilient defence.
The prospect of a City side with Silva, De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling all switching positions - not to mention linking ip with Sergio Aguero - is a hugely daunting one for Premier League defences. Even West Ham might struggle to contain that quartet...
Aguero still lacking sharpness
Usually, if Sergio Aguero has five shots in a match, you expect six to hit the target and seven to find the net. We exaggerate, but the point is he's generally deadly in and around the box. Just not against the Hammers.
Aguero made a late appearance in Tuesday’s defeat to Juve, but looked a little jaded in this outing. When a stray header fell into the path of the Argentine early on, you would have expected him to score as he rounded the on-rushing Adrian, with his shot just pulled wide of the target. Of his five shots, only one tested the brilliant Adrian in the West Ham goal. The Argentine also failed to muster a shot in the second half.
His movement was still extremely good, but his first touch was a little heavy at times and he wasn’t treated softly by either West Ham centre-back Winston Reid or James Tomkins. It's perfectly natural for a team to not quite look themselves when their star striker is missing or lacking fitness - even one with the riches of City will suffer without that kind of influence. However, with Wilfried Bony still to fully adapt to his new surroundings, and with Kelechi Iheancho largely untested when it comes to first team football, the gap between Aguero and City's back-up options is pretty darn large at present.