MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 01: Nigel de Jong (R) of Manchester City celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and West Ham United at the City of Manchester Stadium on May 1, 2011 in Manchester, England. (Photo Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
May 2011 is one that will undoubtedly shape both the clubs short and long term prospects and so far, so good. Following Tottenham going down at Chelsea twenty-four hours earlier, the opportunity to go seven points clear with just four games remaining presented itself and City duly took it.
It was another fast start by City and at the quarter-hour mark the game was as good as over thanks to a pair of goals from unlikely sources in Pablo Zabaleta and a first at the club for Nigel de Jong. The goals were the 17th and 18th of the season in the first 15 minutes of games (representing a third of all goals scored) and the expectation was that a repeat of the recent Sunderland game was the likely outcome.
But, and typical of what can sometimes happen after such a start the foot can come off the gas, allowing the opposition an opportunity to get back into the game. West Ham got their lifeline through the lively Ba shortly before the break, but Avram Grant's assertion that West Ham deserved something from the game was rather ambitious.
The loss of de Jong (thankfully nothing serious) was felt after the break but West Ham's record is in stark contrast to City's when trailing at half-time and it was a 'just enough' kind of performane: further goals would have been unjustified, but neither did the side deserve to lose the points, City once again underlining their strength when leading having now dropped only nine points (ranked third in the Premier League) in terms of points dropped when winning over the course of the 2010/11.
And it was another three points gained at home - adding to an impressive return that has mitigated the fact that the return away from home has been far from impressive - that puts City firmly in the driving seat for fourth spot; so much so, that they could almost afford a slip up against Tottenham such is the advantage now enjoyed.
Interestingly, with de Jong and Zabaleta getting on the scoresheet, the last nine Premier League goals have been scored by nine different scorers: sharing the load or lack of anyone stepping up in the absence of Carlos Tevez?At times yesterday, Mario Balotelli struggled to make an impact, and Edin Dzeko looks in better form at present. Ahead of the Everton game perhaps time to give him a shot from the start. Interestingly though, the player zone profiles show quite what a reduced role Balotelli was playing; at times deployed deeper than both David Silva and Yaya Toure.
Another fantastic stat I pulled out was that some 42% of City's attacking play came down the right hand side. In addition to the threat of Adam Johnson it was strong play from Pablo Zabaleta and he was ranked as man of the match accoring to WhoScored.com, citing his goal (or at least large part in it), goal, 10 interceptions, 3 tackles, 2 clearances, 1 shot blocked and 57 passes (84% completion rate).
The weekends results have tipped the balance tremendously in City's favour, so much so that a top four spot could be sealed next weekend at Goodison Park, although the likelihood is that it will be the home game against Tottenham that could seal matters: the ideal scenario heading into the FA Cup final the following weekend.
2 Goals 1
17 Total Shots 6
9 Shots on Target 3
87% Pass Accuracy 74%
43% Aerials Won 57%
5 Offsides 2
13 Fouls 8
9 Corners 5
13 Throwins 21
6 Dribbles Won 0
12 Tackles Won 12
60% Ball Possession 40%