Tactically Speaking

The Official Website takes an in-depth look at West Ham United winger Stewart Downing's outstanding deliveries, while also looking at how visitors Manchester City could line up on Saturday.

West Ham United

Stewart Downing

Downing's deliveries could be crucial

Now that the international break is over, the Barclays Premier League resumes and WhoScored.com have analysed where West Ham United can win the game when Manchester City travel to the Boleyn Ground this Saturday tea-time.

When Stewart Downing put pen to paper on a four-year deal to sign for the Hammers in August, the deal was viewed as a real coup for the club. The 29-year-old has consistently provided natural width on the flank for both club and country to offer a direct threat from out on the wing.

While the wideman picked up an injury early into his West Ham career, his return to starting action coincided with the memorable 3-0 win over Tottenham last time out. Downing deserved his WhoScored.com rating of 7.43 that day, with no West Ham player executing more key passes (five) than the former Liverpool man.

The visit of Manchester City may be a daunting task, but with the confidence garnered as a result of the win at White Hart Lane, the team will be in a positive frame of mind for the encounter. The Citizens are yet to secure a league victory away from the Etihad Stadium this season, picking up just one point from a possible nine.

Sam Allardyce's side will aim to heap more misery upon City in the late kick-off on Saturday and Downing will be key to this. The winger has put in an accurate cross for the Hammers every 32 minutes, which is more regularly than any of his team-mates.

In all, Downing has delivered 26 crosses in just five appearances, eight of which have successfully reached one of this team-mates. The England winger also completed 89 per cent of the 91 passes he has attempted - second only to Alou Diarra, who made just four passes during his sole substitute appearance.

Putting the ball into the box will be crucial if West Ham are to pressurise Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart, who has made two direct errors that have led to goals this season.

With Cardiff City scoring twice from corners in their own 3-2 home win over City earlier this term, Downing's crossing ability from open play and set plays could be crucial.

City have not enjoyed their trips to east London in recent seasons, picking up only one win from their last five trips to the Boleyn Ground. In those games, the visitors have failed even to score on three occasions, including in last season's hard-fought goalless draw.

West Ham have kept four clean sheets in seven matches so far - second only to Southampton (five) - so another low-scoring game could be in the offing.

However, with Downing unleashing dangerous cross after dangerous cross from wide areas, the Hammers will be confident of breaking the deadlock against a City side that has kept just two clean sheets in seven league matches and conceded six goals in three away games.

*WhoScored.com is a website and one of the fastest growing in the sports industry, specialising in the in-depth analysis of detailed football data. Follow @WhoScored on Twitter.

Manchester City

Probable starting XI


Zabaleta  Nastasic  Lescott  Kolarov

Milner  Fernandinho  Toure  Silva

Aguero  Negredo

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has an embarrassment of riches available to him in terms of top-class international players in all positions.

So far this season, City have seemingly targeted the UEFA Champions League, with the Chilean opting to pick what many would consider to be his strongest XI for the continental competition. With an important trip to CSKA Moscow to come on Wednesday night, Pellegrini may opt for the same approach today.

However, in the light of away defeats at Cardiff City and Aston Villa, City will be anxious not to drop any more points on the road as they seek to maintain their Barclays Premier League title challenge.

City have conceded six goals in three away games so far, having conceded just 19 in the same number of matches on their travels last term.

The visitors' cause will not be helped by the absence of captain and centre-back Vincent Kompany, who has a thigh problem. His place is likely to go to Serbian Matija Nastasic, who had previously lost his starting role following an uncertain start to the season.

Pellegrini opted for a more solid approach in City's most-recent Premier League game at home to Everton, drafting in Joleon Lescott at centre-back and fellow England international James Milner on the right-hand side of midfield. The decision paid off as the Sky Blues ended a run of two defeats with a 3-1 victory.

While many managers have switched to a 4-3-3 formation in recent seasons, City usually line up in a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 formation - a tactic that saw them over-run by Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League recently.

Against Bayern, goalkeeper Joe Hart endured an evening to forget, but he will be between the sticks on Saturday after helping England to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals in midweek.

In front of him, Pablo Zabaleta and Aleksandr Kolarov - who has made a team-high 13 interceptions in five games  - started in the full-back positions against Everton. Zabaleta is an outstanding all-round defender and City's top tackler with 34 in seven matches. The Argentina international is also capable of contributing in attacking areas and has chalked up two assists already. Nastasic will play to the right of Lescott in the centre.

In midfield, Milner is likely to start wide on the right again. A hard-working player, the versatile Yorkshireman also possesses the ability to make and score goals with either foot.

On the opposite flank, Spaniard David Silva is a mercurial talent who also returned to the starting XI against Everton. The diminutive winger has played more key passes (14) than any other City player and will have to be watched carefully by Hammers right-back Guy Demel.

The central midfield area will be populated by Brazilian Fernandinho and Ivorian powerhouse Yaya Toure.

The athletic Fernandinho is a more defensive player who breaks up play and provides a shield in front of the back four. Alongside him, Toure is quick in thought and movement, strong in the air and on the ground and is capable of scoring goals from anywhere. The Ivorian has four league goals already this term.

Deep-lying forward Argentine Sergio Aguero has been City's best forward so far this term and has four league goals to his name too. Stocky, powerful and two-footed, Aguero has acceleration to burst past defenders and is razor sharp inside the penalty area.

Ahead of him, Spain international Alvaro Negredo started against Everton. An all-round centre forward, Negredo has good technique, strength and movement and is capable of both running in behind and playing with his back to goal. The former Sevilla man has three league goals and two assists in seven appearances, illustrating his important role in the City side.

Should Pellegrini change his forward line, he could opt for one of two Eastern Europeans. Bosnia and Herzegovina star Edin Dzeko is tall and strong and has unleashed more shots than any other City player (17), while Montenegrin Stevan Jovetic is shorter and more skilful and elusive.

Other options include France pair left-back Gael Clichy and creative midfielder Samir Nasri, powerful England defender Micah Richards and lightning-quick Spain right winger Jesus Navas.

Away kit