Manchester City drive on so imperiously and inexorably that it is impossible not to fear for the competitive balance of this Premier League season.
The inevitability of losing to them is becoming so great that the threat of defeatism lurks. Liverpool and Chelsea are unbeaten, just like City, yet every point they drop has grave consequences.
The usual narrative about the league leaders' supreme technical merit applies. The third goal was the high point: a drilled, 20-yard diagonal from Fernandinho, cushioned on the volley by Raheem Sterling into Leroy Sane, who 'sat down' Fabian Balbuena and clipped past Lucasz Fabianski. It was divine, football in art form and a privilege to watch.
MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS, LEAGUE TABLE AND MATCH ZONE
(4-4-1-1) Fabianski 5.5
; Zabaleta 5.5
, Balbuena 5,
, Masuaka 3.5
(Cresswell 46, 5.5
); Diangana 5.5
(Hernandez 55, 6
), Obiang 6
, Rice 6.5
, Anderson 6
(Perez 69 6
); Antonio 6
; Arnautovic 5.5
SUBS NOT USED:
Adrian (GK); Carroll, Noble, Ogbonna
Manuel Pellegrini 5
(4-3-3) Ederson 6
; Walker 6
, Otamendi 6
, Laporte 6.5
, Delph 6
; Gundogan 6
(Foden 69 6.5
), Fernandinho 7.5
, D Silva 8
; Sterling 7.5
(Mahrez 73 6
), Aguero 6
(Jesus 79 6
), Sane 7.5
SUBS NOT USED:
Muric (GK); Kompany, Stones, Zinchenko
Silva (11), Sterling (19), Sane (34, 90+3)
Pep Guardiola 7
Andre Marriner 7
MAN OF THE MATCH:
A superb passing move from Manchester City sees Raheem Sterling (No 7) score a tap in to give the visitors a 2-0 lead in the first half. For more of
fantastic MATCH ZONE feature, click here
But the Premier League needs infinitely more mettle than West Ham showed if there is to be any hope for some dramatic tension in the six months ahead.
It's never promising when a manager is arguing the merits of a draw against Huddersfield Town in his programme notes but Manuel Pellegrini's modus operandi against his old side beggared belief.
To beat this City you require muscle, cussedness, physical intent. Yet Pellegrini left his captain Mark Noble on the bench. You require tactical purpose.
Yet Pellegrini ripped up the midfield structure he seems to have settled on and went into the match with full backs who were palpably inadequate. The struggle of left back Arthur Masuaka to get anywhere near Raheem Sterling or Sergio Aguero was painful to behold.
Aaron Cresswell, confined to the bench, would surely have done better, though it was half time before Pellegrini realised this, by which time the game had gone.
With no West Ham midfield to speak of, his players looked for opportunities on the counter attack. Every now and then, one would materialise.
Felipe Anderson, whose occasional touch and vision made life uncomfortable for Fabian Delph, floated a beautiful first half cross which Pedro Obiang could not connect with.
But the opportunities were terribly sparse for a club who have spent £100m on players and were expecting Pellegrini to deliver a little of the City factor when he walked through the door this summer.
City have actually travelled a long way far from the place where Pellgrini left them, two and a half years ago. Their relentless intensity is borne of players' fear that once out of the team, they may not get back in a hurry. They had scored 11 goals here in three previous visits and needed only ten minutes to improve the tally.
Sterling was the provider. His cross, after fastening onto Kyle Walker's driving pass down the right, was deflected into the path of the sometimes untouchable David Silva, whose flick past the advancing Fabianski was exquisitely clever.
Sane whipped comfortably past Pablo Zabaleta to set up the second eight minutes later, laying a square ball over to Sterling who was in the six-yard box to tap in, courtesy of Issa Diop's lamentable failure to offer a challenge.
It was no surprise that Fernandinho was the architect of the third. Of all the players Guardiola inherited from Pellegrini, the Brazilian is the one who has grown the most.
The stadium began to empty as the afternoon wore on because it was obviously all over. Marko Arnautovic's light has gone out since the departure of David Moyes, the one manager who knew how to handle him.
He sent a header high. Fabian Balbuena put another one wide. Michael Antonio hit the post after substitute Javier Hernandez sent him through in the second half.
Guardiola was even able to give Englishman Phil Foden a rare 20 minutes of football, though it was another of the substitutes, Gabriel Jesus, who helped drive the final nail home at the death.
His cross from the left found Sane with enough free penalty box space to control and shoot past Cresswell, standing on the line.
The challenge to City and what they represent comes from beyond the field of play. For ten years, the Abu Dhabis ownership of this enlightened, modern, well-managed football club has burnished the Gulf state's image.
But the shocking life imprisonment of British PhD candidate Matthew Hedges last week has brought Abu Dhabi's dubious human rights record into sharp focus. While its football team was going about its business yesterday, two more British universities cut ties with the UAE.
The timing is unfortunate, after revelations that City were involved in a complex deceit in their attempt to pass UEFA's Financial Fair Play.
Their football team accelerates on regardless, though the same cannot be said of West Ham. They were promoting the news before kick-off that the London Stadium capacity is to be raised to 60,000 and eventually, 66,000 – making this stadium the second biggest ground in the Premier League.
'Even more of you guys can be in here every match,' the assembled fans were told. The masses may take some convincing.