Three Things: Man City vs. West Ham
MANCHESTER -- Goals from Samir Nasri and captain Vincent Kompany secured a second Premier League title in three seasons for Manchester City. Here are three things from their 2-0 home win vs. West Ham:
1. City last the pace
"We'll fight to the end," sang Manchester City's fans. In this most twisting and turning of seasons, such resolve has left City ahead of the rest, having kept their heads while those around them lost them. Liverpool and Chelsea must rue lost opportunities as City toast title success beyond their rivals' reach.
A second title in three years was collected with distinctly less drama than in 2012. City fans were not put through an emotional whirlpool as when beating QPR, and having to wait until the 20th second of the 93rd minute to do so.
Instead, goals on either side of halftime won the day. Once Samir Nasri and Vincent Kompany had struck, the Poznan could begin as inflatable bananas, reminders of the less illustrious 1980s, when City fans had to make their own entertainment, bounced in the stands. "Are you watching, Merseyside?" asked the City fans. Tear-soaked footage from Anfield suggested that Liverpool fans were keeping abreast of matters as they suffered the slow death of their own dream.
The eventual champions didn't begin with the customary cavalry charge that blows away most Etihad visitors. A prematch deluge had sodden the pitch and contributed to some heavy touches. Plus, a draw was always enough, and City knew it.
When news of Martin Skrtel's own goal at Anfield seeped through, a wave of triumphalism spread through the stadium. Edin Dzeko got carried away with himself and smashed a shot into the stands. On the sidelines, Manuel Pellegrini was pleading for calm, and the handbrake did stay on for a while. The usual helter skelter was abandoned for precise passing movements and high pressing on the rare occasions that West Ham had the ball.
Nasri's goal came when the game had lulled. The Frenchman found space and launched his left-foot shot. Adrian might have done better, but he was nevertheless beaten, setting City on their way. When Kompany poked in from close range just after the break, the race was over.
Where Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard will be painted as the man whose slip cost his club the title, City's inspirational skipper supplied the champagne moment -- cruel on Gerrard, heavenly for Kompany. City's leader again has his hands on the one trophy Gerrard has never held.
After winning the League Cup in March, City have completed a double of trophies for only the second time in their history. Their fans could stream onto the pitch to celebrate being champions again. Much more looks likely.
2. "City-itis" cured
The Premier League trophy gleamed on the sidelines as part of the TV buildup. Its replica was at Anfield. It was a tantalising glimpse of an expected outcome, even if the club have their own personalised syndrome of extracting defeat from the jaws of victory. "City-itis" almost sunk Roberto Mancini's team in 2012; last season, the same manager lost his job after losing the 2013 FA Cup final.
City do not yet strut with the ultra-confidence of serial winners despite collecting four trophies in four seasons. Terrace anthem "We're Not Really Here" was penned in the late-'90s days as City drifted down the divisions. Now it serves to register the disbelief of coming so far so fast.
The selection of Sergio Aguero allowed the crucial quartet of him, David Silva, Kompany and Yaya Toure to add to the minuscule 216 minutes they had played together all season. Add to that Joe Hart's extended absence in the winter months, when he was dropped for a poor run of form, and the reasons for City not streaking clear of their rivals are apparent. Aguero looked short of the fitness he needs to be at his best, though City did not require his heroics this time. Pellegrini deserves high praise for maintaining -- and at times reviving -- their challenge when suffering blows or losses of form. Some said a first title was beyond a man who passed his 60th birthday in September, yet an unwavering belief in attacking football has its reward. Scoring over a century of goals has been a key driver of success, though it has been married to a determined approach; Pellegrini has added grit to his rich resources.
3. Bye bye, Big Sam?
There is more than a fair chance that this was Sam Allardyce's final game in charge of West Ham. Suggestions are that the club's owners have joined the greater majority of fans in becoming bored by the standard of football that the Hammers have played this season.
Allardyce has done exactly the job he was expected to -- keeping the club in the Premier League -- but at the cost of entertainment and satisfaction. It said much that the greatest frisson of excitement this season came via a brief flirtation with relegation.
When City fans mocked West Ham's manager they were applauded by the visiting support, almost to a man. It was a telling vignette of a manager's irreversible lack of popularity. Gustavo Poyet is the mooted replacement, and having proved he can keep a team up with Sunderland, the Uruguayan offers the promise of more inventive football. The meat and potatoes of Allardyce's approach is too stodgy for him to survive much longer.
Kevin Nolan, Liverpool fan and pal of "Stevie G," blazed a shot over in the 12th minute, but chances for he, Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing to do the Reds a favour were scant. Being hemmed back and camped on the edge of the 18-yard box is no path to success. Adrian's goal kicks were often the Hammers' most potent creative weapon.
Carroll and Nolan both attempted to rough up Hart, though both were apologetic afterwards. It was as close as they came to upsetting the apple cart. Both were subbed off early to mockery. Twitter exhortations from Merseyside for the old boys and local lads to help out did not bear fruit.
West Ham failed to make an impression on the final day, just as they have for the entire year. Their fans will not remember the 2013-14 campaign with as little affection as they have for Allardyce. Approaching 60, he is hardly going to change now. Instead the possibility is him being the victim of change.