Manchester City made it five wins out of six with a performance of the season against West Ham in the FA Cup. The Blues wiped the floor with the Hammers and could’ve easily added to their five goal tally. Pep Guardiola experimented with his formation while fringe players such as Aleix Garcia and Fabian Delph made long-awaited appearances.
Here’s what Anis Bazza learned from today’s 5-0 victory over West Ham.
Manchester City’s diamond
Without Fernandinho again – and without a competent back-up – Pep Guardiola had to settle on a different formation to compensate for the Brazilian’s ball-playing abilities from deep. Fernandinho is the perfect fit for a Pep team and can offer what Fernando and another do as a pair, all by himself. But with Gundogan out and Fernando not fit enough to provide a screen of protection, Pep elected to try a new diamond formation that we haven’t see before this season. Rather than asking Yaya Toure to provide cover, pass and bring the ball forward; Pep saw to it that the Ivorian could simply sit deepest and try and take control of the game. Besides him he played the industrious Pablo Zabaleta and moved Kevin De Bruyne to an interior position. At the tip of the diamond, David Silva played, just behind a duo of Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero.
It worked a treat. Yaya was offered enough to protection and continued his excellent form this season by completely dominating the middle of the park. Pablo Zabaleta delivered another superb performance as a box-to-box midfielder and ran the channels at West Ham’s peril. Kevin De Bruyne – who propably isn’t ecstatic at being moved much deeper this season – kept the ball ticking on the left-hand side of the pitch. City produced arguably their most complete performance of the season and they made West Ham look startlingly average in the process. Yaya evaded Andy Carroll’s pressure with ease and popped up in some very deep positions to keep the ball moving. City’s build-up play was incisive and quick, with the big man recording 90+ passes in yet another game.
There was real balance to this new diamond formation, propelling Sterling and Aguero into more dangerous positions with both playing as inside forwards. Pep’s tactical flexibility is his hallmark as a manager and it really came to play against West Ham today.
David Silva’s genius
There’s been a lot said about David Silva this season from both City and opposition supporters. For some reason, he seems to be the target of a lot of underserved criticism having found himself a regular under Pep Guardiola this season. Quite simply, Silva wouldn’t be Pep’s most trusted midfielder if he wasn’t such a wonderful footballer – and his performance today was yet another reminder of his class that leaves you feeling giddy and fortunate just to be able to witness. He masqueraded as thin air at times before suddenly popping up in dangerous positions to wreak chaos on West Ham’s defence. His reverse pass to open-up a condensed penalty area for Zabaleta’s penalty was genius foresight while his goal was the epitome of ‘cool, calm and collected’. He was only on the pitch for 58 minutes but it was more than enough to get City purring and well on their way to the 4th round.
Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy
You’ll get no medals for pointing out the most glaring weakness in our squad but in recent weeks, Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy have really done themselves justice. The duo were once again on top of their game today and provided wonderful width and incision out-wide. Gael Clichy seems to be going through one of his purple patches and whilst it may not be enough to save him in the summer, it might be enough to keep City afloat before Kolarov decides to have a purple patch of his own. Clichy is noticeably playing much higher than he usually does and consequently he is finding himself more engaged in our build-up play. He isn’t terrible on the ball and his ambidexterity means he can pass comfortably when under pressure. Bacary Sagna meanwhile continued to disprove the theory that he doesn’t know how to cross a football by pinging a glorious ball in the first half that was destined for the back of the net.