City 1-1 Everton

Clive Brunskill

In the end, a draw was probably a fair result against an Everton side who this season have managed to ally their tactical organisation and defensive strength with more of a goal threat, namely in the shape of the tall Belgian with that distinctive mop of hair – Marouane Fellaini....

When he stooped at the far post to meet a deflected cross from Leighton Baines, converting at the second attempt after a fine reflex save from Joe Hart, City must have feared the worst. Up until that point they had been lacking tempo and imagination and the goal for the visitors was thoroughly deserved. Fortress Etihad was in danger of being breached for the first time since the very same opponents conquered here in December 2010.

As it was, moments before half time the same player acquainted himself with Edin Dzeko a little too vigorously for referee Lee Probert when defending a corner in his own penalty area. As the Bosnian went to ground the referee pointed to the spot and City had a route back into the game. A soft award perhaps, but a foul nonetheless. Carlos Tevez converted down the centre of the goal and the Blues were level.

From the start of the second half the home side seemed to realise that they had to go out and actually win the game – Everton were too durable and too motivated an outfit to be overawed or intimidated by the home record and stellar names on the team sheet. For 25 minutes City probed and passed the ball with increased purpose but to no avail. When Tevez departed the field a little prematurely for some Blues in the stadium, the open dissent towards Mancini seemed to encapsulate the frustration of the afternoon. In the final quarter Everton too began to offer a goal threat although in truth they created little and were happy to share the spoils by the close of the game.

Aside from the loss of form of City’s frontmen - which will surely right itself before too long - the main area of concern here and over the last few fixtures has been the steady decline in performance levels of Yaya Toure. The big Ivorian was overshadowed by the equally scaled Fellaini in the battle of the midfield heavyweights and whereas last season Yaya was a powerful box to box midfield presence, in this he has largely sat much deeper, relying more on a passing range that presently appears to have had its radar scrambled. When not engaging in one of those exhilarating gallops upfield, Toure has always betrayed a certain lethargy of body language which initially did not endear him to City fans and again does not do so if his game is not coming together. Be it fatigue, niggling injury or a loss of focus, Yaya is capable of better than he has demonstrated over the past few weeks. With the unfortunate Milner again injured, Rodwell on the sidelines and with Javi Garcia’s struggles well documented, one does not envisage a spell out of the team for Yaya before he departs these shores for the African Cup of Nations in the New Year. It is to be hoped that he can re-energise and re-focus his abilities as the fixtures come thick and fast in the ensuing weeks.

David Silva and Samir Nasri were disappointingly peripheral on Saturday, with the Frenchman adding to a number of non-descript performances in a sky blue shirt. The feeling persists that he is at his most influential when operating from central areas and unlike Silva, he has been unable to perfect the requirements of prompting and instigating attacking moves starting from a wider position. Nasri is unquestionably gifted, but if City had secured the services of a pacy wideman, such as Eden Hazard in the summer (ignoring, as Mancini appears to, the merits of Scott Sinclair) then it would be his role in the side that would be under threat. More has to come if he is to remain a permanent fixture.

On the positive side Vincent Kompany now appears to have put his early season dip in form behind him and is back to his imperious best. Quick in thought and deed, strong in the challenge throughout and able to bring the ball forward with ease, the City captain dominated Jelavic here. Reassurance indeed with the Manchester derby looming large on the horizon. His partner for this fixture was Joleon Lescott – the source of much chagrin for Everton supporters still embittered with his switch to the club in 2010 – and the big centre half performed diligently enough here. It will be interesting to see whether Mancini plumps for experience or precocious talent in the shape of Nastasic on Sunday.

With an away fixture in Dortmund on Tuesday, where nothing but victory will see City exit European competition, how Mancini utilises his squad will be very intriguing. Despite the vast resources midfield options are limited at present, but one would expect to see Javi Garcia being given the opportunity to right the wrongs of his last outing in Lancashire, more than likely in the cauldron of Signal Iduna Park. Edin Dzeko – rightly or wrongly – has seen considerable game time recently with Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez a little undercooked in terms of minutes on the field. Expect them to feature on Tuesday, with Aguero perhaps kept in reserve for the weekend. By this stage next week we will know much more on where City are really at this season. Are they an excellent side playing within themselves, or has the unbeaten League run masked the deficiencies of a squad who have allowed their standards to slip following the exhilaration of last seasons campaign? We are about to find out.

Man of the Match: Vincent Kompany

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