Hammers give the 'have-nots' some reasons to be cheerful
West Ham 2 Manchester City 2
Published 25/01/2016 | 02:30
It's a sign of the times and the way the old order is changing in the Premier League that West Ham United considered their draw with Manchester City as two points dropped rather than one gained.
The huge increase in broadcast revenue is leading to an equalisation between what were once thought of as the 'haves' and 'have-nots', both in terms of quality and expectation.
West Ham and Leicester still have a long way to go to catch up with the unrivalled spending power of City, but the fact that they are competing with the traditional big guns for Champions League qualification shows what can be achieved with good management, clever use of the transfer market and - most of all - hunger.
West Ham looked more up for it than their visitors and might well have completed their first double over City in half a century were it not for the brilliance of Sergio Agüero at one end of the pitch and Joe Hart at the other.
Agüero twice equalised the leads that Enner Valencia had given West Ham, and Hart made one of the saves of the season to keep out a free-kick from Dmitri Payet, who dominated in midfield along with Alex Song, Cheikhou Kouyate and Mark Noble.
West Ham's whole midfield cost less than the individual fees for Yaya Touré, Kevin De Bruyne, Jesus Navas or David Silva, but the City quartet were distinctly second best as they were bullied out of it.
Touré in particular was brutally exposed as a holding midfielder, and it must concern City supporters that Manuel Pellegrini did not agree with criticism of his captain.
"I don't think so," the manager said. "I don't remember too many important saves of Joe Hart, just the free-kick. That is not a play that involves a defensive midfielder.
"I think Yaya played in that position without any problem.
Pellegrini, like Touré, might be gone in the summer, which may explain why City appear to lack the desire or urgency to push on and secure the title.
Leicester, Arsenal and Tottenham all face City away in the run-in and Pellegrini believes that could be a decisive factor. However, the real key to City's hopes may be keeping Agüero fit.
West Ham, meanwhile, remain contenders for a top-four finish, with Payet in outstanding form and Song looking much more like the player for whom Barcelona paid Arsenal £15m in 2012. (© Daily Telegraph, London)