Silva injury adds to Pellegrini woes despite City stroll
Man City 2-0 West Ham
There is a manifest sense of industry at the Etihad - white cranes, spectacular against a blue sky yesterday, are gradually pulling a glass-fronted new stand extension into place.
But making headway with the football is proving a far heavier lifting job.
A win which eases a little of the doubt about Manchester City's future Champions League status was punctured by the loss - possibly for the rest of this season - of their most important player.
The value of the victory, which lifts Manuel Pellegrini's team seven points ahead of fifth-placed Liverpool - who do have a game in hand - cannot be understated because City cannot afford to be live without their European income.
But neither can the loss of David Silva - stretchered from the field in an oxygen mask and neck brace (pictured above) just past the hour, with what appeared to be a broken cheekbone.
He was discharged from hospital yesterday afternoon but there are still concerns over his involvement, a week after Vincent Kompany's season ended prematurely.
Silva is the man who Pellegrini says has the "X-factor". The Spanish playmaker is City's player of the season by a distance and there is no doubt that the manager values him above all others in his squad.
The game's controversy hinged on whether the Senegalese Cheikhou Kouyate should have been sent off for the elbow to Silva's face which left medical staff treating the player for eight minutes, before he was carried off.
"I always think that the player doesn't want to make damage to another player," said Pellegrini, one of the most gracious of his profession in these situations.
"The referee was so near and he decided it was unintentional."
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce argued his player's case more forcefully.
"Accidental," he said. "It was innocuous. I didn't think it was a foul. I just had a look now. It wasn't deliberate at all…"
Allardyce had far deeper preoccupations, including the question of how the side who were fourth in October after beating City 2-1 at Upton Park, could look so demotivated and feckless in possession, especially for the first half-hour.
They looked like a team who have given up on the campaign. City's two goals - both offered up on a plate - were the epitome of what the opposition had been about.
James Collins provided the first, turning a poorly-struck Jesus Navas cross into perhaps the own goal of the season as the ball looped over goalkeeper Adrian and in off the underside of the bar.
Stewart Downing - who just did not look interested - served up the second when he sold Mark Noble short with a pass. Yaya Toure slid into the arc of the ball, navigating it to Aguero, who accelerated past Collins, exchanged passes with Navas and struck home from close range.
"One (mistake) was pretty bizarre and the other unexpected from a player as experienced as Stewart Downing," reflected Allardyce, angry enough about a result which extends his side's dismal spring to one win in 12 to identify the culprit.
Anaemic though the visiting side were, the intensity of some City play deserves acknowledgement.
There was a morbid fascination in looking for signs of players no longer motivated to deliver for Pellegrini, but no evidence of it.
Aguero looked fully driven to prevent two successive defeats degenerating into a crisis.
Eliaquim Mangala and Fernando offered signs of what City saw when they signed them.
Pellegrini refused to respond to the latest comments by Toure's agent Dimitri Seluk who, a few months after proposing that his man wanted to be City's director of football, denigrated the club's executives for signing players they didn't use and criticised the Chilean.
"He's a good coach, but a weak manager," Seluk said. "He won the title with the team left behind by Roberto Mancini."
Pellegrini would only say that he had "no comments" on this.
But there can be no disguising that City are in a holding position, waiting to see what transpires, and whether they can afford to hold for on one more season with this manager before Pep Guardiola becomes free.
Such is the nature of Manchester City, a club struggle to build in the footballing sense. (© Independent News Service)
Independent News Service