West Ham v Man City: Fast-starting Citizens can make their mark

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DEFENDING Premier League champions Manchester City begin their season with a tricky trip to the London Stadium to face West Ham.  James O'Rourke (@JamesOR1) analyses the odds on offer for Saturday afternoon's encounter..

West Ham v Manchester City | Saturday 10th August 2019, 12:30 | BT Sport

Reigning Premier League champions Manchester City get their campaign underway fresh on the back of defeating last season’s runners-up Liverpool on penalties in the Community Shield at Wembley last Sunday. A potentially tricky trip to West Ham awaits them on Saturday lunchtime, although the Citizens have won the last seven competitive head-to-heads, and also in pre-season during the Premier League Asia Trophy.

It is easy to assume that this game is all about City, but West Ham will believe that if there is a time to catch these bigger clubs, then the first week or two of the campaign is as good a time as any. Pep Guardiola has had several players only just start to return from a prolonged summer rest following international duty, but they do have the squad to cope with such demands.

Former City boss Manuel Pellegrini has spent big in the off-season, most notably on Pablo Fornals and Sebastien Haller from Villarreal and Eintracht Frankfurt respectively for a combined £69million. Marko Arnautovic finally got his wish in a payday move to China, whilst the likes of Andy Carroll, Lucas Perez, Pedro Obiang and Samir Nasri are no longer on the payroll.

You could argue Man City have been somewhat quiet in the transfer market so far, but that’s only in terms of numbers. The addition of Rodri from Atletico Madrid is seen as the long-term replacement for Fernandinho, and is something of a Busquets 2.0 as well. We saw them at a decent throttle in the first half of the Community Shield, before Liverpool improved to level in the second 45 to take it to spot kicks.

It’s so tough on the opening day to read too much into pre-season, so perhaps we can look towards last season for some clues.

Quick out the blocks under Pep

This will be the fourth full season under the management of Guardiola at the Etihad, and looking across their opening sequences in the early parts of the season make for interesting reading.

In 16/17, City came flying out of the tracks as Guardiola returned from his sabbatical. They won their first six in a row, including at Old Trafford, although kept only one clean sheet. The following campaign saw them not lose a league match until their 23rd game, away at Anfield. Last season they wouldn’t lose until a trip to Chelsea in September. Clearly, they are fast starters.

Man City are also quick in out the blocks in games full stop. In last season’s Premier League, but defensively they were tight too, conceding only four first half goals away from home. In over half of their matches they were winning to nil at the break, plus they averaged 1.29 first half goals; the most of all teams in the league.

City average 1.11 goals away from home was also the highest of all clubs. Pep's men also netted 19 times in the first 15 minutes of games; again the highest in the division. The only 15-minute period in a game in which West Ham has scored more than they’ve conceded was between 61-75 mins.

The 5/6 (Coral) about Man City HT/FT from Coral is too good to turn down, plus a tentative play at 3/1 (Coral) on City to be leading after 15 minutes, again from Coral, is worthy of some interest.

Hammers slow starters

This will be the second season of the Pellegrini era at the London Stadium, and he didn’t start life at the club too positively. It was four consecutive defeats in his first four league games, including tough assignments at Liverpool and Arsenal, but also at home to Wolves and Bournemouth. Even the year before, under Slaven Bilic, they started with three losses in three. The year before, one win in seven.

For all that Fornals and Haller are good recruits for a club like West Ham, they will need to adjust to life at this level, and facing one of the best Premier League teams of all-time is no easy introduction. They’ll be up for it, but ultimately the Hammers could be up against it.

West Ham have essentially struggled against City in recent times, like most clubs in their defence. Under Pep, Man City have defeated West Ham on every occasion, keeping clean sheets in four of those, whilst in three of their four away trips to West Ham they’ve also produced a shutout.

As much as West Ham have some fresh faces in attack I can’t be expecting them to hit the ground running as City have a habit of blowing teams away, even at this stage of the season.

23/20 on Man City to win ‘to nil’ with BoyleSports will be our final play on the day.

Best Bets

West Ham v Man City – Man City HT-FT (5/6 Coral)

West Ham v Man City – Man City to be Leading After 15 Minutes (3/1 Coral)

West Ham v Man City – Man City to win ‘to nil’ (23/20 BoyleSports)

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