x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Slick City are proving they are title contenders

Those who doubted Manchester City's chances of winning the Premier League this season are starting to look naive.

Yaya Toure is picked up off the floor by his Man City teammates after scoring yesterday. Shaun Botterill / Getty Images
Yaya Toure is picked up off the floor by his Man City teammates after scoring yesterday. Shaun Botterill / Getty Images

West Ham 1 // Manchester City 3

West Ham Tomkins 89’
Man City Yaya Toure 30’, Green (og) 73’, A Johnson 81’

Man of the match Yaya Toure (Manchester City)

LONDON // Those who doubted Manchester City's chances of winning the Premier League this season are starting to look naive.

A victory against woeful West Ham United is not quite the most accurate gauge of the title credentials of any contender.

But the manner in which City humiliated the rock-bottom Hammers emphasised what they have started to look like in recent weeks - a real team at last.

The main argument against City's chances of being involved in the shakedown at the top of the table was that, with so many new and expensive stars, they would not gel.

There has been some evidence to support that in the first phase of the season, but gradually City are evolving into a force.

Significantly, this win was achieved without Carlos Tevez, scorer of almost half their league goals before today, who was serving a one-match suspension. Even Roberto Mancini, the manager, has admitted that City have been over-reliant on Tevez's ability to inspire.

Others stepped forward yesterday, most notably Yaya Toure and David Silva. Both players were major acquisitions in the summer from Spain's Primera Liga.

Inevitably, it has taken some time for them to settle but both now look well up to speed when it comes to coping with the greater intensity of the Premier League.

Yaya was especially impressive. At Barcelona he was known more as a holding midfield player but yesterday he was again used more as an inside forward.

West Ham could not cope with his sheer power. The Ivorian scored two, although one was credited as an own goal, and was City's most dominant player. But it was day when everyone apart from the petulant young striker Mario Balotelli put in an impressive shift for City.

There have plenty of stories about alleged dissension in the dressing room but it didn't look that way yesterday as City meshed nicely. Mancini's masterplan is starting to take shape; this win moved City level on points with Arsenal - who play Manchester United tomorrow night - at the top of the table.

Mancini dashed away from Upton Park immediately after the game to fly back to visit his sick father in Italy, so it was left to assistant Brian Kidd to assess City's prospects.

"Everyone knows you don't win titles in December, but if we are there or thereabouts come March and some of the other teams slip up we can be there in their slipstream to take advantage," said Kidd, who worked alongside Sir Alex Ferguson when Manchester United started their dominant period in the 1990s.

"It was always going to take time for some players to settle and the team to gel but we are getting there. And Roberto Mancini must take a lot of credit for that.

"He reminds me a lot of Sir Alex in the sense he is a real winner."

Yaya opened the scoring in the 30th minute. He stormed through for a solo goal when he finished off a surging run with a crashing drive that hit Robert Green, the West Ham goalkeeper, and bounced in. It was credited as an own goal.

Silva then produced a brilliant through ball to send substitute Adam Johnson clear. He rounded Green and rolled the ball home. James Tomkins headed a late consolation when City's defence momentarily switched off, but it was the only time when the hapless Hammers had ever really threatened Joe Hart's goal.

"City were a better team then us," said West Ham's beleaguered manager Avram Grant. "The boys are trying, that is what is important to us.

"While we are not in the middle of the season there is time to turn it, but we do not like where we are."

sports@thenational.ae