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West Ham United v Manchester City

Filed: Thursday, 21st January 2016
By: Preview Percy

Unlike Michael Caine in Get Carter, Preview Percy made it back from Newcastle in one piece. Mainly because, unlike Caine's bosses, we were a bit concerned that sending a hit man up to the north east might be a bit, well you know, illegal. Whilst our legal team is working on that here's his look at this weekend's visit of Man City......

Next up we play host to Manchester City in a match pushed back to 5:30pm so a tv company can sell advertising space to companies that want us to eat their particular brand of breakfast cereal. The tubes are, by and large, behaving themselves though if you use the Met or the Jubilee line from the top left hand side of the map you may want to leave early. Also if you’re from areas east of Pitsea there are no trains between there and Shoeburyness. If you’re lucky a replacement bus may stop for you in that part of the world. Good job it’s a late kick-off then isn’t it.

So Man City. “A little bit inconsistent” is the impression one gets from the telly. Sometimes they look as if they are from another planet and are waltzing through matches as a way of keeping their hand in before an Intergalactic Champions League group stage match against a team of sentient beings from AFC Kepler 62-f (an away trip so far away it makes last weekend’s jaunt to Newcastle look like a trip to the newsagents). Then on other days they look all at sea, though even then they seem to be able to carve out results, as they did against Watford where a late wake up saw them win 2-1. They looked a little bit off the pace in the first leg of the League Cup against Everton where they go into the second leg of the semi-final 2-1 down.

For all that they are tucked in nicely in third spot a point behind Leicester and Arsenal on 43 points with a superior goal difference to both.
Their last runout was a 4-0 home win over a Palace side that is beginning to look a bit grateful that they have probably amassed enough points to keep them up – this season. Prior to that they were held 0-0 at home by their League Cup oppos Everton, a match that hinged in part by a spot of poetic justice as Sterling was denied a penalty as his reputation as a past member of the Anfield diving society caught up with him.

Sterling is, of course, not the only one with a spot of penalty box unsteadiness about him from time to time. Somewhat depressingly, Sergio Aguero has been known to have an attack of gravity should anyone get close to him. I say “depressingly” because, unlike many other exponents of that particular dark art he is undoubtedly one hellova player who is usually a joy to watch. Reports of the Palace game suggest that the 4-0 scoreline was slightly flattering and that Aguero, who scored twice in the match, was the difference between the sides. In fact Alan Pardew went as far as to suggest that, had Aguero been a Palace player they’d have won. I doubt that though. In the event that Aguero ever signs for Palace he’ll be sectioned before making his debut on the grounds that he is not well enough to be trusted out on his own.

Whilst Aguero has had his injury problems in recent weeks, it is in defence where they have had bigger issues. Now on his day Vincent Kompany is a superb centre-back. Of course he is. However, he has two weaknesses: his calf muscles. He seems to have had more calf muscle strains than I have had pints of ale in the Swan & Suoerinjunction. All of which wouldn’t be quite so problematic for them were they not so reliant on him to keep things tight.

They’ve been relying on their last two fit central defenders Demichelis and Otamendi in recent weeks. To be fair they’ve kept three clean sheets out of their last three, though that should be tempered by the caveat that two of those three matches involved Palace & Norwich. There were worries that Demichelis in particular might not be up to the strain of playing loads of matches in such a short space of time but he’s hung on in there.

Their injury list at the back is believed to be easing slightly, with the possible return of Eliaquim Mangala. Mangala has been suffering from the hamstring epidemic that has hit the Premier League this season but he is said to have returned to full training this week. He’s had mixed reviews to say the least this season in fact they tried to offload him in the summer - allegedly the original deal that brought Otamendi to the club would have seen him go to Valencia in the opposite direction - but he decided to stay on and fight for his place. The sad tale of Kompany’s calves has meant that he had had more game time than one suspects Pellegrini might otherwise have liked.

As if to confirm Mangala's standing in Manchester, the work experience kid with the Harry Potter spectacles has brought me a paper cutting which, as recently as December just gone, was describing Mangala as “an expensive mistake”. If, indeed the player is to be considered a mistake, it transpires that he is a more expensive one than originally thought with documents coming to light suggesting that the supposed £32m paid for the player is actually nearer £41m. This discrepancy stems from thr fact that his former club Porto only actually owned 57% of the player, the remainder being split between a Sports Investment Company and a marketing company.

Funny how that third party ownership thing is so common abroad but outlawed here isn’t it. I did enquire of OFCOM whether any of the ex-Liverpool players employed in the media for no apparent reason had third party owners if only to establish a) who exactly owns the brains rattling about the heads of Carragher, Owen and Lawrenson; and b) whether or not they kept the receipts. However, they told me to go away.

Aguero’s double last weekend has lifted him clear at the top of their scoring charts with all but three of his 13 goals coming in the league. Second in that list is Kevin De Bruyne whose 11 this season is a decent total for midfield, even if they are split slightly more evenly about the various tournaments they have been involved in.

De Bruyne has impressed when I’ve seen him on the box, something that must be a bit galling at Chelsea on whose books he was on a few years back as part of their breeding stock and in no way money laundering programme. Or at least it would be if the stock response from both staff and “customers” over there wasn’t “De Bruyne? Which one was he then?”. He may not catch the eye as much as the outrageously gifted Aguero and Silva but according to the work experience kid with the Harry Potter spectacles he led Europe in what I believe the tv companies, in their usual vulgar manner of trying to Americanise everything, like to refer to as “assists”. I swear that as soon as I hear the word “winningest” on my box I will avail myself of another American tradition involving the right to bear arms and terminate the perpetrator “with extreme prejudice”. Let’s hope it’s Lawrenson.

Talking of things scouse-related, given the raptures they went into over a 1-1 draw with West Brom the other week I reckon those with jobs were given an official public holiday to celebrate their shock 3-0 win over Exeter. Or at least they probably took one anyway.

Liverpool continue to provide amusement – as if to prove the adage that a lack of intelligence is no block to getting a tv punditry job as long as you played for the red half of Liverpool, Michael Owen actually got paid for his latest description of his beloved deluded ex club, in which Mignolet, Enrique, Allen and Benteke were genuinely described as constituting a “strong spine”. No, really.

Us? Well last week taught us that you can’t always rely on a good second half to pull you out of the mire if you don’t have a good first 45.

For them,Shelvey got a load of plaudits for his debut performance but he shouldn’t have been on the pitch after clotheslining Valencia. Strange isn’t it that all those people at the FA who go through the videos our matches with a fine-toothed comb just in case they miss a chance to fine us don’t seem to have seen the incident which was looked at and highlighted by all the tv companies. You might think that the disciplinary people at the FA are a bunch of incompetent shysters. You’d be right.

Injury news is that Diafra Sakho escaped further damage after parking his Lamborghini in a neighbour’s garden wall using the time-honoured “bouncing it off a Mini-Cooper” manoeuvre pioneered by George Michael. The car was apparently a write-off suggesting that either they make Lamborghinis out of the same stuff as players’ hamstrings, or the official speed of 30mph quoted may have been underestimated a wee bit.

Interestingly, in amongst all the transfer chatter, it seems to have gone unnoticed that Sakho’s name seems to have dropped off the list of injured players that the work experience kid with the Harry Potter spectacles gets off the internet. However, officially it’s likely to be a February return for him. Which, amazingly, isn't all that far away.

The window has seen the welcome addition of a new right-back in the form of Sam Byram. Just for once it’s nice to see us pick up a player we’ve been linked with over someone else. Everton’s cause was probably not helped by the existence of an uncle and cousin within the ranks of season ticket holders.

We’ve also been linked with a couple of strikers on a loan with a view to purchase option. One or both will come in to replace Zarate who, at the time of writing, looks to be on his way to Fiorentina. Zarate has been an infuriating character during his sojourn at the Boleyn. The number of times you’d be screaming at him to pass to someone in good position only to see him shoot weakly into the ‘keeper’s arms. There again sometimes those shots came off. There’s undoubted talent there – he’s just a course in decision-making away from being a really good player. So long and thanks for Highbury.

Prediction? Well great though it is that we are talking to strikers it’ll be a week or so before any of those will be available and our lack of cover up front is something that concerns me. Valencia, bless him, for all his talents does not seem fitted to a lone striker role. As for Jelavic, despite the relative glut of goals that have come his way recently (ok, two) doesn’t really show too many signs of Premier League quality. Indeed he too is likely to be on his way ere long. All of which is a tad unfortunate – just when a strong opponent might have problems at the back we go and run out of strikers.

For that reason my usual optimism is being reined in slightly this weekend and I shall be off down to Winstones The Turf Accountants and placing the `£2.50 we had earmarked to help out old boy Javier Mascherano with his Spanish tax bill on a 2-1 away win I’m afraid this time.

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met At The Boleyn: Won 2-1. (October 2014). A fine game of football in which we prevailed thanks to goals from Amalfitano and Sakho, the latter setting off the goal decision buzzer on the referee’s wrist as Hart tried desperately to claw the ball back. Silva’s fine effort on 77 minutes set up a tense finish but we held on for a deserved three points.

Referee: Craig Pawson Indirectly led to Andy Carroll having 9 months off. His decision to send off Adrian at Southampton last year was rightly overturned on appeal but, at the time, meant we had to use up a sub to bring on Jaaskalainen. That sub might have come in handy later on as Carroll was forced to stay on the pitch with what turned out to be a serious ligament injury.

Danger Man: Sergio Aguero – Beginning to return to form after his injury layoff. Dives a lot.

Irritating Celebrity Supporter Of The Week: : It is a truism in the world of entertainment that a successful act spawns inferior imitators. Thus those of us old enough to have been about in the 1970’s will remember Morecambe and Wise fondly. We have, on the other hand, spent the last 40 years trying to forget that their “so unfunny they could be scousers” wannabes Little and Large ever existed. City supporter Eddie Large (you may not be surprised to discover that isn’t his real name) gets this week’s award for blighting our screens all those years ago. His one saving grace being that, I suppose, if pushed, I would concede that he was slightly less unfunny than Cannon. Or Ball. Or gout.

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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