After months of waiting, West Ham and Manchester City faced off at the London Stadium in the opening fixture of their respective Premier League campaigns. 

For City fans, the trip to the capital allowed for a second look at new signing: Rodri, after the midfielder made his debut in the Community Shield the previous weekend. The Hammers also went into the fixture full of enthusiasm, following a positive pre-season in which they brought in powerful front man Sebastien Haller, amongst a number of others. 

Despite this enthusiasm, West Ham were outclassed by last year's Premier League winners, and would go on to be soundly defeated 5-0.

Here, we analyse why City were able to rip the Hammers to shreds all too often, and look at how both sides set up for the game.

West Ham's Resolute Defensive Shape Caused City Early Problems

Issa Diop,Raheem Sterling

​Although they would eventually go on to be thrashed by a five-goal margin, the Hammers actually started this game impressively, frustrating City with their resolute low block. 

West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini organised his side into two narrow and compact banks of four when defending, with Felipe Anderson filling in on the right of the midfield four, and Michail Antonio slotting in on the left. 

Whenever a City player would enter one of the Hammers' areas of engagement, they were aggressive in the tackle. This was most vividly demonstrated by right-back Ryan Fredericks, who piled into Raheem Sterling early on in the first half.

This approach unsettled the champions, as it left them unable to conduct their intricate passing on the edge of the West Ham box, with the usually metronome-like Rodri making a number of routine passing errors. 

City Changed Tact to Exploit Hammers in Wide Areas

Gabriel Jesus,Kevin De Bruyne

​Experiencing little joy through the centre, City adapted their game plan and instead looked to hurt the Hammers out wide - and they did, with devastating effect. 

Vital to this strategy was the overlapping runs of full-backs: Kyle Walker and Oleksandr Zinchenko, which forced overloads down in flank with some regularity. City's first goal was a prime example. 

Riyad Mahrez found himself in space due to Michail Antonio's lax positioning and began to run at Hammers full-back Aaron Cresswell. Walker than overlapped round, showcasing his incredible speed before pulling it back for Gabriel Jesus to toe home at the near post.

It would not be the only time that a West Ham full-back would be left isolated by his midfielder. Just four minutes after the goal, Antonio's poor positioning again left Cresswell with a two-on-one situation that Mahrez almost capitalised on. 

On the opposite flank, Felipe Anderson was similarly negligent in his defensive duties, allowing Zinchenko and Sterling to wreak havoc down the right-hand side against the exposed Ryan Fredericks. 

City's Use of Tactical Fouling Broke Up Play Superbly

Tactical fouling has been a part of Pep Guardiola's footballing philosophy for a number of years, though they have repeatedly caused controversy.

Manuel Pellegrini has been the latest to criticise City's supposedly cynical tactics, stating: "If you review the game that is why we didn’t create too many chances in the first half. All our offensive moments of attacking ended in a foul. You can look at the statistics. They committed 13 fouls, we committed five."

Rodri kicked off the tactical fouling in the first half, bringing down Manuel Lanzini as he was bursting out of the West Ham midfield on the counter, but there were similar offences committed by a litany of other City players.

These fouls disrupted the flow of the game, thwarting the Hammers' counter-attacks throughout the course of the second half. Guardiola's players are masters of their craft, but also masters of knowing when to put the boot in and when not to.

City's Speed in the Transition Tore the Hammers to Shreds


The image of Man City turning defence into attack in an instant will remain synonymous with their 2018/19 campaign - but if this game was anything to go by, they could be preparing to take things to a whole new level.

City's second goal is indicative of this level of counter-attacking brilliance, with an error in attack from West Ham allowing the visitors to transition vertically up field with speed. Kevin De Bruyne was instrumental in this regard, as he drove the Citizens forward before West Ham had time to retreat back into their low block.

De Bruyne was thus able to slip in an unmarked Raheem Sterling, who made no mistake with the finish. The perfect counter attacking goal from one of the most tactically sophisticated teams in the Premier League.