Dropped points for Arsenal and Leicester last weekend handed Manchester City the initiative and Pellegrini’s men took it with both hands. A comfortable 4-0 victory over Crystal Palace means that City are now only one point off the summit.
City now head to Upton Park on Saturday for the last time ever to face a West Ham side who sit resoundingly in 6th place. To get the latest from the Hammers, I spoke to Tom Victor, a West Ham fan who writes for JOE.co.uk.
Slaven Bilic seems to have done a mightily impressive job this season, continuing off the foundations Sam Allardyce laid. How big a difference has he been?
Very tactful of you to speak of the foundations Allardyce laid, seeing as the first thing Bilic did was get rid of the two players most associated with the Big Sam regime (Downing and Nolan) and released one of Allardyce’s last signings in Amalfitano.
In truth there’s been a big turnaround in players, especially in terms of first-team starters, and I’m impressed that things have clicked so well.
My housemate said that Dmitri Payet is verging on Di Canio levels of cult at West Ham. Would you agree?
I’m still not sure how we managed to sign him – it feels like we’ve found some sort of football cheat code. He’s not at Di Canio levels yet, but if he stays at the club long enough then there’s no reason he can’t be.
Imagine playing half a season with a 4-6-0 formation including Mo Diame and Ricardo Vaz Te as your most advanced players, and then having Payet rock up two years later. It’s like trading in your chewits wrappers for that lobster stuffed with tacos that they do at The Gilded Truffle.
This seems like quite an exciting time for West Ham. You have a fine coach, your best squad in recent memory and a spanking new stadium ready to move into. How optimistic are you about the future?
A lot of it depends on the stadium move, obviously, but the change of manager this season meant the more pessimistic among us were hoping to simply avoid relegation and then reassess.
If we settle into the new ground well and keep our important players, then we can really kick on next year. This is West Ham, though. I’ve seen us go from top half to relegation battle enough times to know never to expect nice things.
What have you made of Manchester City this season and do you think we will win the league?
You really should win it. City have the best squad in the league and are up there without playing that well. It seems like you’ve had the same problems as us, namely a couple of key injuries and a lack of consistency from strikers (the two are connected, I guess).
It could go one of two ways, Aguero decides to start Agueroing properly for a few months and you run away with the title, or you win it by accident again, like in 2014. The latter might be funnier.
One City player you’d take at West Ham?
It’s obviously Aguero. Seeing as we currently rely on a 6/10 striker who’s good for about 15 games a season, why wouldn’t we want a 9/10 striker who can manage 20?
If Winston Reid starts, 1-1. If he doesn’t, 1-2.