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West Ham United v Manchester City

Filed: Friday, 24th October 2014
By: Preview Percy

Sergio Aguero? David Cross was better. Let Preview Percy explain why.....

Next we return from the grim North back to civilisation where we will play host to our fellow Champions League hopefuls (tee hee) Manchester City. Kick-off is shortly after dawn at 12:45 pm so set those alarm clocks now. The District and Hammersmith & City lines are both running in the local area, though the bit of the District through the centre of town will be shut if that's your usual route.

The visitors come to the Boleyn with 17 points from their 8 matches thus far, five points below leaders Chelsea and four points and two places ahead of us. The seven points dropped to date have come from draws with Chelsea (1-1 at home) and Arsenal (2-2 at the library) and an unexpected 1-0 home reverse at home to Stoke.

We from the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For the Bewildered watched their last outing from the bar of the Ferret and Giro, one of the few pubs in Burnley not actually boarded up. And a bizarre match it was as well, quite apart from the usual fun to be had at the expense of Spurs. Referee Jonathon Moss started awarding penalties like they were going out of fashion. Nobody should be surprised though. Moss has consistently given double the number of spot kicks that his colleagues have given over the years. You'd think a stat like that might be worthy of investigation wouldn't you?

Moss's first penalty of the day came after an appalling dive from on-loan Frank Lampard. Whilst one would never cheer an injury (Lampard's ghostwriters please note) I couldn't help but wonder if the subsequent unspecified “muscle injury” he picked up was some sort of karmic retribution from the gods of football.

After years of kissing the Chelsea badge (presumably there's a pound note symbol somewhere on it) he claimed their goalscoring record, largely by virtue of being their penalty taker and by claiming deflected corner-flag bound efforts as his own. He transferred to New York City in the summer, with a few uncharitable souls suggesting that it must be nice for him to be playing football in a country where he's considered to be slim. He was instantly loaned to Man City, who, it transpires, share a common ownership with their New York namesakes. City have denied that the deal somehow circumvents the UEFA Financial Fair Play regulations that they fell foul of last season.

The UEFA sanctions “limited” their potential net expenditure for the summer window to a net £49m. In the event although they spent something like £53m, £23m of that was recouped leaving what the work experience girl with an inappropriate number of rings through her lips informs me is a net spend of £30m.

The biggest fee was spent on defender Eliaquim Mangala, a name that probably got used in one of the less successful “Carry-On” films. Especially when you consider that his first club was AC Lustin. Mangala made his debut in the 1-1 draw with Chelsea then promptly went out and had a complete 'mare the following week, being responsible for the two opposition goals in the 4-2 win at Hull. An own goal and a penalty allowing the home side to come back from 2-0 down was his contribution to the proceedings at the Sunshine Stadium. Despite being capped by France, the country of his birth, he's never actually played in the French league, having spent much of his childhood in Belgium. His route to The Etihad took in Standard Liege and Porto and, if he'd thought about things a little bit more, he could have picked Belgium for his international career when they came knocking at U18 level. That way he could have avoided having to go to France altogether.

Mangala followed Brazilian midfielder Fernando along the path from Porto to Manchester. He's had a bit of a confusing time at international level. Brazilian by birth, he represented Brazil at U20 level, picking up a one year ban on the way for assaulting a ref on the way. In January 2013 he declared his undying love for his birth country and, thanks for asking, but there would be no way that he would consider becoming Portuguese just to play international football. By December he had been given Portuguese citizenship and by March 2014 he'd written to FIFA: "Dear Mr Blatter, Please can I play for Portugal, lots of love Fernando x". Sadly, FIFA's rules did not allow the change. Still the Portuguese passport came in useful at work permit time in June when City paid £12m for him. Perhaps an inexplicably popular Swedish pop group could write a syrupy song about the whole affair.

Bacary Sagna arrived on a free from Arsenal the second his contract at the library expired. Arsenal had offered him a two year extension to his then current deal but, according to the player, the talks “weren't going the way I wanted”. No surprise then that he should end up at one of the bigger payers then. Sagna is another whose international career could have involved a different country. As a 17 year-old he wrote to the Senegal FA but “they didn't reply”. By the time the Senegalese FA got their act together (Sagna? Didn't we get a letter from a kid with that name?) the French had stepped in and the right back has now gained over 40 caps for the French, including appearances at two World Cups.

Man of the moment is, of course, Sergio Aguero. Aguero was the beneficiary of three of the four penalties awarded by Moss last weekend, converting two of them and netting twice more making him as good as David Cross in our book. Well, nearly. Psycho's four against Spurs came without the aid of what the laws of the game used to delightfully refer to as “kicks from the penalty mark” - and we're pretty sure that he wouldn't have missed one had he been called upon to take one. You will note that the back of Aguero's shirt carries the name “Kun Aguero”. The “Kun” bit is apparently a nickname given to him by his grandparents. It is claimed that the soubriquet stems from the player's alleged resemblance to an Argentinian kid's tv character, though another school of thought says that his grandparents simply didn't like him. He certainly married into dodgy stock – his ex-father-in-law is cheating junkie tax-dodger Diego Maradona. He also wins the “daft tattoo of the week award” for the use of Tolkein's Tengwar script (as used by elves apparently) to have his name inked on his right arm.

In amongst all the foreign so-called “superstars” it's notable that Pellegrini has kept faith with one of the less heralded members of the squad in James Milner. Often – and often unfairly – derided at England level, he's nevertheless featured in the bulk of the Citizens' matches this season and was on target in the so-called Champions League match against CSKA Moscow in midweek ("behind closed doors? Yes – the doors were closed just as soon as we'd let those supporters in"). He's probably the anti-Aguero – as anonymous as his counterpart is eye-catching, but, in a different way, just as effective.

Enough of them. What about us? Actually before us, I need to reply to a letter that has arrived from Alex F who asks “Could someone explain to me what the West Ham way is as they haven't won a trophy since 1980”. Well Alex, it seems you have made the mistake of many a stupid person by equating football solely with trophies. It's about more than that. Amongst other things it's about honesty, and integrity. It's about people like John Lyall for example – if that name rings a bell Alex he was the chap that you used to turn to for advice in those days before you could afford to buy all those trophies. It's about having respect for others. It's about not intimidating referees. It's about not teaching your players to dive and cheat. Of course having worked for much of your life for one of the few clubs in English football history ever to have been found guilty of match fixing, I expect many of the concepts contained within this response will be alien to you. However, you did ask for someone to explain it to you before you died. I won't be shedding any tears in your direction if you now take the hint.

As for us, unlike, Man Utd, Spurs or Liverpool, we're not deluded enough to claim some divine right to a top four place and few genuinely think that that's where we'll stay. However, it's great fun being there at the moment, mainly from being able to look down the table with cupped ear and listen to all the whining from below. Comment of the week to appear on the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For the Bewildered's social media network type thing (note to work experience girl – is this right?) was the one that read “hope we don't get Bayern in our group next season” which displayed a nice ironic touch.

We were well worth the three points last weekend, though we did ride our luck in the first 20 minutes and in the period just after they got their goal, when Ings got into good position but headed wide, leaving him holding his head in the manner of one who has had half his surname nicked. In between we played some superb stuff. Sakho's goal spree continues apace and, despite still looking knackered after crossing the Atlantic on international duty, Valencia's header was a joy to behold. Even Carlton “bless him” Cole looked sharp and thoroughly deserved his goal.

Team news is heartening. Tomkins, missing from the trip to Turf Moor, has recovered from his thigh problem. Whilst Collins had a fine game last weekend, I'd suggest that Tomkins might be preferable in the centre of defence for this one where the opposition will present somewhat different problems to those posed by Burnley.

We'll also be welcoming back Cheikh Kouyate after a spell on the sidelines with a dodgy hamstring. On the unavailable list will be Guy Demel who has a “hip/thigh injury” (presumably as opposed to all those deeply un-trendy thigh injuries) and, of course, Andy Carroll, who is another few weeks or so from a start or, more likely, the bench.

The worrying one is Mauro Zarate who is shown only as having a “knock” with the familiar refrain of “no return date” listed in the last column. Nothing much has been said about his whereabouts either. Hope there's nothing untoward occurring there.

Prediction time. Well I mentioned that we're not a deluded bunch by and large, and, much as I'd love to go for a win this time the presence of Aguero is a bit scary. That said, we are playing them at a decent time – a midweek trip to Moscow is always going to take it out of you, especially when you have thrown away a two goal lead. I think we'll probably come off second best but narrowly. So the funds left in the jar from the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered's road trip to Burnley (£2.50) will be going on a 3-2 defeat this time around – with our performance not getting the result it deserves.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met at The Boleyn:Lost 0-3 League Cup (January 2014). An injury ravaged side had already been turned over 6-0 in the first leg of the semi-final so the game was dead before it started. Goals from Negredo (2) and, yes, Aguero were all a bit academic really.

Referee: Martin Atkinson Odd that we should get him so relatively soon after we had him at Hull. His last appearance at the Boleyn was the visit of Palace last term, a game remembered more for being the day we remembered Dylan Tombides than for the string of odd decisions from this most mediocre of officials.

Danger Man: Sergio Aguero – Last week I was struggling to fill this section. This week, however..... At least Fat Boy and his third-rate ghost-writer are unlikely to have much to write about.

Daft fact of the week: According to an oft-repeated tv documentary, goalkeeper Joe Hart suffers from such dreadful dandruff he often has to have treatment from the Man City physio during the match.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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