Three things we learned from Man City’s win vs. West Ham

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LONDON — Manchester City put on an attacking clinic in their 4-0 win at West Ham United on Wednesday. 

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Gabriel Jesus lit up the game as City’s young attacking talent ran riot to put some pressure on Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur ahead of them in the table.

[ MORE: Man City’s future on show ]

Here’s what we learned from a masterclass in east London.


JESUS RULES SUPREME

Getting off the train in Stratford, east London, a few Man City fans were walking in front of me. Seeing their sky blue shirts, a couple of fans approached them.

“We are Brazilian,” they said, half whispering. “We are hear to watch Gabriel Jesus.”

They don’t need to whisper about it anymore. The kid is a star in the making.

After his impressive first start for City in the FA Cup win at Crystal Palace on Saturday, the 19-year-old carried that form on and delivered more magic.

From the first whistle Jesus looked on another level, cutting in from the right and dribbling past three West Ham defenders before clipping in a dangerous cross which was cleared. He was only just getting started.

For City’s first goal he surged forward in support of Kevin De Bruyne and played an inch-perfect ball back to KDB for the Belgian attacker to slot home without breaking stride. Before he scored his first goal in a City shirt to make it 3-0 he played a divine ball in-behind to Sterling which was put on a plate. He has everything.

The one area he also excels in is his work rate. Often he chases back but he has to watch the timing of his challenges as when on a yellow card (dished out for waving an imaginary card) he clattered in to a West Ham attacker and gave away a free kick in his own half.

With time he will learn and with time it seems he will develop into one of the best young strikers in the world. The $34 million City paid Palmeiras last summer for Jesus looks like an absolute bargain. They may will be ruing the fact that the deal only allowed him to join in January.


CITY’S FUTURE SECURE

When City’s third goal went in following a fluid move, the camera panned to Sergio Aguero’s face on the bench. He looked stunned. That’s because he knows now, more than ever, his place in Man City’s starting lineup is seriously under threat.

And that’s because it wasn’t just Jesus putting on a show on Wednesday. His partners in crime up front were just as dangerous with Raheem Sterling and especially Leroy Sane cutting West Ham’s pedestrian defense to shreds.

Sane, 21, is really finding his stride after a slow start to his first season in England. For City’s second goal he nutmegged Sam Byram in ridiculously easy fashion and then surged past Jose Fonte like he wasn’t there before finding David Silva at the back post to slot home. He then whipped in a cross which Jesus couldn’t quite reach early in the second half and was a constant pest.

Sterling, 22, was just as dangerous, drilling a shot just wide with the first attempt of the game, playing in Jesus for his goal and then winning a penalty kick for City’s fourth. Kevin de Bruyne buzzed around behind the front three of Sane, Jesus and Sterling and got a rest in the second half. Those four players are the future of City’s attack.

No wonder Aguero looked so shocked and concerned on the bench. City’s future is bright and the Argentine may struggle to be an integral part of it.

He isn’t on his own though. With Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta joining Aguero on the bench and Yaya Toure’s deal up in the summer, the changing of the guard at City has begun.


PAYET A DISTANT MEMORY, FOR NOW…

Outside West Ham’s new home at the London Stadium there used to be a mural to Dimitri Payet. That’s right, used to be.

In one one season he managed to become a god of London’s east end, worshiped by every single Hammers fans for his outrageous goals, flicks and assists.

In one day he whipped all of that away.

When Payet, 29, handed in a transfer request and refused to play for West Ham in early January, the entire fanbase turned against him. His manager Slaven Bilic came out in the press and hammered him for letting down the staff, his teammates and the fans.

Payet trained with the U-23 side for a few weeks and was eventually sold to Marseille the day before Deadline Day for $31.3 million. He took a pay cut to join his former club, who he left in the summer of 2015 to join West Ham, and it has also been revealed he wasn’t paid by the Hammers for January for his behavior.

West Ham’s owners lambasted Payet’s behavior but on his unveiling at Marseille he said he didn’t have to answer to anyone. He’s quite happy with his decision.

Bilic has suggested that over time Hammers fans may appreciate all of the magic moments Payet delivered in their seventh-place finish last season and be happy they saw him in his prime.

For now, though, the only physical reminder of Payet is a mural which has been painted over. Nothing more, nothing less.

Reports: Barcelona holding talks with Verratti’s agent

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Barcelona has their eyes set on a new Andres Iniesta.

Sure, projecting anyone to meet Ballon d’Or finalist standards is silly, but news that Barca has had multiple meetings with Paris Saint-Germain’s Marco Verratti does inspire comparison hunting.

[ MORE: Klopp explains Lovren extension ]

An influential and creative central midfielder, the 24-year-old Verratti is 8.5 years younger than Iniesta and wowed Barca in the first leg of PSG’s ill-fated UEFA Champions League tie with the Catalans.

Mundo Deportivo, amongst others, reports that Verratti feels life at PSG has gotten stale and that Barca is one of the few clubs that represents a significant jump up in class. He’s also been linked with Real Madrid and Manchester United in the past few transfer windows.

Verratti has a contract through 2020-21, so any purchase will not be cheap considering PSG’s desire to continue growing its status as a UCL contender. The Italian is 21 times capped by the Azzurri.

Klopp talks new Lovren deal, Top Four worries, Watford

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Liverpool announced a new contract for Dejan Lovren on Friday, complete with the requisite “I love my club” comments from the defender.

Then Jurgen Klopp got his hands on a microphone.

The outspoken manager explained that re-signing Lovren to a new “long-term” deal ensures that the Croatian spends the best years of his career with the Reds.

[ MORE: Top PL Storylines ]

He also spoke plainly about Lovren’s perceived struggles and successes since arriving at Anfield from Southampton in 2014.

From The Liverpool Echo:

“If Dejan played for another club you would want to sign him – and pay a lot of money. He is 27, the best time is still to come.”

“If you’d asked fans after the Dortmund game they would said give him a 20-year contract. After the Palace game fans would have said ‘can we find another team who will have him?’ Truth is somewhere in between.”

Turning to Monday’s trip to Watford, Klopp isn’t concerned about the chance that his Reds will open the day outside the Top Four if Man City and Manchester United both win at the weekend.

He also says the Reds could have Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge at Vicarge Road, though Jordan Henderson remains out.

Premier League Preview: Sunderland vs. Bournemouth

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  • Sunderland won 2-1 on Nov. 5
  • Fourth meeting since 1990
  • Sunderland leads all-time 5W-3D-1L

Sunderland looks to keep its faint hopes of Premier League safety alive by managing a season sweep of Bournemouth when the two sides meet at the Stadium of Light on Saturday (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The Black Cats are a mess, having lost to Tees-Wear Derby rivals Middlesbrough on Wednesday and living 12 points back of 17th place Swansea City.

Bournemouth battered Middlesbrough 4-0 last weekend to move seven points clear of the drop zone, and can finish the day in the top half with a win up north.

What they’re saying

Sunderland boss David Moyes on calls for him to quit“I’m here, I’m the manager, you take it on the chin. … I’m a football supporter, I know what it’s like. You don’t like seeing your team lose. There is nobody who wants to win more than me. I am used to winning, I’m not used to losing and I don’t want to get used to it either.”

Bournemouth captain Simon Francis on Sunderland’s woes“It just show how things can happen when clubs are not run properly. If we do lose Sunderland from the Premier League it will be a real shame. They are an enormous club and playing at grounds like theirs is the pinnacle of anyone’s career.”

 

Prediction

The Black Cats haven’t quit, but manage two fewer points than they need, all but heading for the Championship after a 2-2 draw.

Premier League Preview: Southampton vs. Hull City

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  • Hull won 2-1 on Nov. 6
  • Tigers two points clear of drop zone
  • Saints lead all-time 23W-20D-15L

After back-to-back losses to Man City and Chelsea, Saints meet a different kind of desperation when Hull City arrives at St. Mary’s (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

With a win, Hull can move five points clear of the final relegation spot and heap pressure on Swansea City, who plays Sunday. With a loss, Marco Silva’s men open the 17th place door for Swans.

[ MORE: JPW on Romeu the Destroyer ]

Since the start of the 2011-12 season in the Championship, Southampton has won six of seven matches against Hull. That seventh, however, was the match at the KCOM Stadium earlier this season, one that saw now-West Ham man Robert Snodgrass spur a Tigers comeback.

Saints open the day four points back of eighth place West Brom, and also hold a match-in-hand on the Baggies.

What they’re saying

Saints boss Claude Puel on slump busting“After two losses it’s important to move forward now and take points on Saturday in front of our own fans. We have to improve in the right areas and find a good balance of play, but also a good clinical edge in both penalty areas.”

Marco Silva on Hull’s away troubles““We have conceded goals on the counter-attack away from home in games when the result has been looking good for us – we cannot make it possible for our opponents to do this to us. The second goal we conceded at Stoke is an example of this – conceded at a time when we were in control of the game. Details like this are making the difference and these are things we must look to change. This is clear to me and I pass this on to my players.”

Prediction

Saints have more quality than Hull, but may not have as much fire in the belly. Still, home field means a lot here and Southampton should reverse the score line from November’s tilt. 2-1, with Manolo Gabbiadini and Dusan Tadic leading the way.