So a satisfying result and a captivating first half but how might Pep's way be considered unique and can it be successful in the English game ? Here are seven observations from the West Ham game that are maybe not too common in the Premier League.
1 - Playing from the back - The big issue ! It has been the talk of the Etihad since the start of the season and looks like causing the departure of Joe Hart but how evident was it in the game? Well in the first half it was very evident but I saw nothing out there today in Willy Caballero that Joe Hart is not capable of did I ? It is far more about defenders and central midfield players being willing to accept the ball in tight areas than a goalkeeper's ability to play a twenty yard pass (surely they can all do that?). Much is made of Hart's 'pass completion' being among the poorest in the league last year but that is ridiculous. If the measage from Manuel Pelligrini was for the team to push up and for the keeper to kick long then the 'pass completion' is bound to have been poor. City, apart from on the rare occassions that Wilfried Bony was in the team were simply not going to win headers so how can that be held against the keeper ?
One thing is for sure. Claudio Bravo is going to need to be brilliant with his feet (and his hands) for the City faithful to forget about Jo Hart. There will be goals conceded directly from playing this way and you also run the risk of a goalkeeper injury (we saw one in the game). In some ways today, West Ham probably saw pushing up and putting pressure on the ball was maybe their best route to a goal so when City beat that press there was acres of space. There is a big difference too with your goalkeeper being comfortable playing out from the back and being ordered to play out on every occassion. The Hart issue may have created a monster.
2 - Seamless interchanging. Not totally unique but rarely have I seen it done as seamlessly as in the first half today. As John Stones steps forward with the ball, Fernandinho slots in at centre back and there is not the mad panic you might normally expect to swap back. Definitely an area that has been worked on relentlessly at the CFA.
3 - Wide players occupying full backs - For a manager who preaches 'it is all about the team' there are some areas on the pitch where it is very much about an individual 'one on one battle'. Raheem Sterling struggled last season but worked very dilligently, tracking back to help his full back whenever needed. The roles of Sterling and Nolito against West Ham though were very different, almost 'don't track back'. In doing this the opposing West Ham full backs offered little going the other way. This is not to say that Nolito and Sterling did not work tirelessly, they just did their work positively in offensive situations. It takes a brave full back to run the risk of leaving their opponent up the field as this can lead to problems if play breaks down. Stuart Pearce, a great full back for both clubs was the best I played against and he would always make that brave decision.
4 - No redundant defensive players - Sometimes the problem for a dominant team is you can end up with players who are almost redundant in their defensive responsibilities as opposing teams defend in depth. This also sometimes mean that in supplemnting attacks your full backs can be as much of a hindrance than a help. Today, as well as not being afforded too much support from the wide attacking players both Zabaleta and Clichy were expected to supplement Fernandinho in central midfield when City were on the attack. In the past City have struggled because they have played too many flair players in central areas leaving them exposed defensively. We want Silva and de Bruyne on the ball in key areas and with full backs plugging these gaps it could work but against a top team ? That's an unknown for at least a couple of weeks with the big game coming up. Sterling now has more energy where it matters but it will from time to time expose full backs one on one as we saw to our cost today with the goal conceded.
5 - Quick changes of play - Possession is great but if it is slow possession it might get you nowhere. Changes of play in the game , particularly in the first half, were very, very quick which made them meaningful and penetrative. This was made possible because both Sterling and Nolito held their width making the switch pass always on.
6 - Third man runs - Not just your usual third man runs but they are coming from all over the pitch and they are so irregular it is inevitable that they will cause opposing teams serious problems. Stones, Zabaleta, Clichy, they all seem to have licence to make these direct runs off the ball runs many of which end up being decoy runs creating space for team mates in wide positions. There was rarely an attack where we didn't see one and we have watched it for years at Barcelona.
7 - 12th Man - Not unique at all but Pep kicks every ball and responds incredibly quickly to what's happening on the pitch.
An incredible first half performance but some frailties and can this new play of playing improve the performances against the other big boys in the league and in Europe which was a major problem last year ? Some great signs that it will. Time will tell....