It may have not quite lived up to the nine-goal thriller Liverpool and Norwich City unexpectedly produced earlier in the day, but the East London clash was thoroughly exciting throughout as both sides eventually came away with two goals and a point apiece.
Indeed, we saw 26 efforts at goal during an open game filled with end-to-end football, full-blooded challenges and a few moments of genuine world-class quality. Overall, a draw was probably a fair result.
We at Football Fancast believe there is something to be learned from every football match – whether it’s a Champions League final or a relegation play-off in the fifth tier of the German league pyramid.
So with that in mind and in case you unfortunately missed tonight’s 2-2 draw, here are the FIVE things we took from the Upton Park clash.
Towards the end of December, Sergio Aguero appeared stuck in a bit of a rut. Barring an incredible five-goal haul against Newcastle United, the Argentine had scored just two goals in his first eleven Premier League outings of the season and found himself sidelined through injury for nearly two months.
Some suggested the City striker required a lengthy lay-off to recover, whilst others accused Manuel Pellegrini of rushing him back to the starting Xi far too quickly – considering his sizable track record with injury problems.
But after bagging a brace against West Ham, the Aguero we all know and love is well and truly back. He converted from the spot after nine minutes, hit City’s 81st-minute equaliser and somewhere in between clipped the bar with an incredible chip that somehow ended up in Adrian’s hands.
That makes it four goals and two assists in his last four outings for the 27-year-old, who might just be hitting form at the right time to revive City’s title bid.
I doubt there are many Premier League pundits or fans who would claim Joe Hart doesn’t deserve to be a No.1 at a trophy-contending club like Manchester City.
But overshadowed by the theatrics of David De Gea and the sheer size of Thibaut Courtois and Manuel Neuer, the England international perhaps doesn’t get talked about in world-class discussions as much as he should be.
It’s almost as if he’s become part of the furniture in the Premier League – we’re all aware of how good and how consistent he is, so why bring it up?
But against West Ham, the 28-year-old reminded everybody of his quality with an incredible save to keep out a Dimitri Payet free kick. The Frenchman’s strike looked destined for the top corner of the net, but Hart extended his body and his fingertips to pull off a world-class stop.
Perhaps not everybody needed reminding but nonetheless, Hart demonstrated today why he is one of the best keepers in world football.
When Enner Valencia first arrived at Upton Park following his impressive showings for Ecuador at the 2014 World Cup, many viewed him as a signing who could take West Ham to the next level.
But in his first eighteen months in East London, the 26-year-old rarely delivered; struggling for both fitness and form and finding himself jostled between wide and central attacking positions.
Over the last few weeks, however, the real Enner Valencia has started to emerge. He showed great awareness to ghost into the box for West Ham’s first goal and turned up in the right place at the right time again to convert his and the Hammers’ second after 56 minutes.
In terms of pace, power and jumping ability, the South American is an ideal fit for the Premier League. He’s beginning to show the form worthy of a top six club as well, with four goals in his last three league outings, and could become an increasingly important player for the Irons during the campaign’s final run-in.
No doubt, Yaya Toure is up there with the best central midfielders to ever grace the Premier League. He controls the ball immaculately, passes with pinpoint precision, can physically dominate anybody he chooses and has a knack for scoring incredible strikes from long distance.
Defensively, however, the Ivory Coast is a notorious liability and that was evident once again today as West Ham found the net in the first minute.
Other culprits were unquestionably involved but the lackadaisical City midfielder refused to pose a challenge as the Hammers bombed down the wing and also failed to track Enner Valencia’s run into the box, leaving him unguarded on the penalty spot to strike an incredibly early opener.
It may be a case of City simply not having room for all their incredible talent in the same starting Xi. Toure, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne all want to affect the game in a similar way and the former finds himself the furthest back simply because of his size.
But if City had a more conventional deep-lying midfielder in their line up against West Ham, they might’ve come away with more than a point.
There were perhaps bigger contributors to today’s scoreline – such as brace-baggers Sergio Aguero and Enner Valencia and Hammers talisman Dimitri Payet – but West Ham servant Mark Noble produced yet another solid display.
The 28-year-old recorded three tackles, three interceptions and three created chances – the latter statistic being the joint-most of any player on either side.
The Englishman’s career has developed at a rather unfortunate time in the context of international football. He probably didn’t deserve a game whilst Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Scott Parker, Gareth Barry and Michael Carrick were at their peaks and now finds himself pigeon-holed as too old with the younger generation – the likes of Jack Wilshere, Dele Alli and Ross Barkley – breaking through.
But in terms of quality and experience, Noble deserves the recognition of at least one England cap before his playing days come to an end. It seems unlikely at the moment with Roy Hodgson preparing for Euro 2016, but if the midfielder can carry his form into next season, the Three Lions gaffer may not have much choice than to issue him a long-awaited debut.