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Aug 13, 2007

Sven's new signings seal points

I had thought prior to the game that Man City might struggle but without a fit Dean Ashton and the, I believe, suspended Scott Parker I think City rather caught a break with the Hammers team it faced. The same trip in a couple of months might have yielded a different result. But the game was played this weekend and the three points are in the bag.

Here's what I like about the first goal. Hamann breaks up a West Ham attack and the ball breaks to Elano in his own half. As the Brazilian crosses the half way line on the right hand side of the centre circle it's three of the new signings on a three on three break.

Petrov is steaming down the left side and takes Jonathan Spector's attention, effectively making it a two on two break up the middle. Bianchi makes an intelligent diagonal run from right to left, across the face of the two retreating central defenders, Ferdinand and Upson, which not only puts himself in position but opens up an entire portion of the West Ham half for Elano to exploit.

Around 35 yards from the goal Upson tries to intercept Elano, something the young defender should have done much further up the field, and the Elano pushes the ball into the empty space to the right. Lost in all of this is the pursuit by West Ham's, Mark Noble and Lee Bowyer, the latter who makes a magnificent 70-yard run that eventuially falls a foot short of making a saving interception.

Elano fires the ball towards the far corner and it's debatable whether that is a shot or a pass but either way Bianchi pounces on the ball, that is going wide, to steer it in from two-yards out.

I was skeptical of the young Italian when he was manager Sven Goran Eriksson's first purchase. Italian goal poachers are not a known breed outside Serie A. However this is now the second time in a couple of matches, the first being his initial friendly against Orgyte, where the youngster has shown such instincts.

And Sven's reaction? Talking to Richard Dunne and going over tactics. Nice.

Overall there seemed to be a lot of positives. With Richards in the middle of the defence you have terrific recovery speed and I'd be very interested to see the Dunne and Richards combination continue. I think it has a lot of potential.

Meanwhile, the fullbacks were joining the attack but willing to work hard. At one point, some 20 minutes into the game, Corluka was involved deep into the West Ham half and chased after a nice flick from Elano. The ball ran through to Robert Green and Corluka is out of position 25-yards from the West Ham goal.

Green sees this and kicks the ball towards Bellamy. By the time the ball gets to the Welshman via a flick on, Corluka is stride for stride with the West Ham forward back in defence. That's great effort and tactical awareness.

City were also the beneficiary of some strange tactical decisions by Alan Curbishley. Craig Bellamy is a central forward not a left winger and what Luis Boa Morte was doing in left midfield was beyond me. Throw in left full-back George McCartney going walkabout, it was noticeable that he was off down the left wing when City broke for their first goal, and West Ham had an unbalanced shape.

In addition, while Bobby Zamora was constantly offside, the linesman (repeat after me not assistant referees) was making some dodgy offside calls. And while the calls seemed to balance out I wasn't all that impressed with the referee either.

After the break Etherington brought the Hammers much needed pace down the wing but Curbishley popped up in the nick of time because just as West Ham were piling on the pressure, McCartney was removed to make way for Ashton and Etherington was moved to the back. Dumb. I mean great for City, but that's not going to make the list of the top four thousand, six hundred and seventy three tactical decisions of the season.

The second goal duly came. Fresh substitute Onuoha made a telling run with that took him into the box and Geovanni dispatched nicely past Robert Green. Post match comments from the West Ham side were all about how Robert Green was the only player on the home side to play well and I disagree. Both Bellamy and Etherington rose about the turgid play of their teammates. Meanwhile, City didn't have a man who played poorly, not one.


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