Just who will be English football’s Christmas number one?
City staked their claim with an emphatic, exhilarating, and eye-catching win in the East End.
A wonder goal from Yaya Toure, an own goal from Robert Green (created by Yaya) and Adam Johnson’s late shimmy ensured an eighth straight match without defeat and made it five away wins this term.
It completely exploded the tired myth that City can’t win or score without Carlos Tevez and put the Blues on level points with Arsenal atop the Premier League pile.
It is surely no coincidence that the two sides share the best away record too.
Managers from Manchester to London (both West and North) will tell anyone within earshot that it is not important to be top at this time of the year. Fans forums issue forth an entirely different Yuletide message.
Both viewpoints are, of course, correct. Being top dog on December 25 or January 1 or 2 does not trouble the engravers but on the other side of the coin it delivers great momentum and an inner feeling of well-being way beyond the properties of Christmas turkey and mulled wine!
City’s win at Upton Park was built on team work
Without their suspended skipper and left back Aleksandar Kolarov, Mancini’s men might have been thought more vulnerable but such is the strength in depth that neither star turn was missed even a jot.
Mario Balotelli led the line with Jo deputising for Tevez and Zabaleta replacing Kolarov on the left flank of the rear guard and Jerome Boateng coming in for a start on the right.
It all gelled smoothly against a team languishing on the bottom rung of the league but that has a Carling Cup semi-final to look forward to. It will be scant consolation should they lose their top flight status.
It was nip and tuck in the early stages with Balotelli missing a chance to slide Jo’s cross home and then Junior Stanislas firing in a shot that Joe Hart held well low down. But the gulf in class was soon evident.
Yaya Toure tested Hart’s England rival Green after a surging run and shot with the outside of his right foot in the 26th minute. It proved a mere dress rehearsal for the opening goal four minutes later.
It was a move that started on the half way line when Silva won the ball and an exchange of passes followed between the Spanish World Cup winner, Gareth Barry and the younger Toure who unleashed a wonderful left foot shot into the roof of the net from 18-yards.
Jonathan Spector will not be happy that he let the Ivorian run off him but it was a goal of the season contender.
The second half was dominated by the buoyant and confident Blues who always had an air of confidence that once in front they would not be caught.
That abstract feeling became more tangible in the 74th minute when Yaya latched on to Nigel de Jong’s through ball and danced inside the area before unleashing a shot that hit the post, rebounding against the diving Green and finding the net in front of ecstatic City fans.
The rout was completed in the dying moments when Silva’s instinctive, intuitive through ball split the defence asunder and Adam Johnson waltzed around Green to send Blues home dreaming not of a white Christmas but of sky blue ribbons each side of a silver trophy.
Even a late consolation goal from Tomkins was not enough to silence the roar of joy from the away end.