For round four, see round three. Roberto Mancini looks to be gambling in this years FA Cup and whilst he is not losing the facts are that he isn't particularly winning either.
Despite thoughts of him fielding a strong looking side, with one eye on midweek Premier League action perhaps it was inevitable he would rest certain players, particularly with a body of evidence this season across all cup competitions that this is the preference.
But with two successive draws in the competition this means extra games and the likelihood of some of those rested playing in the replayed game. The sides will now likely meet on the fifth round date weekend, so anticipated progression - which I expect - will mean a further midweek game against Aston Villa in round five (without an obvious date looking at the fixture list in February), a game that will be demand a strong side.
That said, there should however be enough quality in the side to get past Notts County at the first attempt, however tricky away ties on below standard pitches are. It did have the ingredients for an upset and taking the core out of the side - Vincent Kompany and Nigel de Jong, and the two most creative elements - David Silva and Carlos Tevez, leaves big holes to fill. Too often this season the side has failed to perform with one or more of that quartet absent, underlying quite how irreplaceable they are.
The starting line-up was interesting in that Jerome Boateng moved into the centre to accomodate the return of Micahe Richards, a position that many believe him to be most suited to, but he didn't particularly shine alongside Joleon Lescott, who, similarly to Boateng didn't do much wrong but lacked the command of a Kompany or even a Kolo Toure. Ricahrds returned at right back however and was excellent. His forward running was exceptionally good, full of pace but his delivery was impressive and resulted in the equalising goal.
It was pleasing that it was Edin Dzeko who got the goal, as he made several promising runs to get in good positions and was a little unlucky with blocked shots and the like earlier in the game.
It was the midfield area that struggled the most yesterday though. The trio of Patrick Vieira, James Milner and Yaya Toure were far too static and lacked any sort of drive or purpose. Pablo Zabaleta and Jo were non existent on the left as an attacking outlet and the side missed the movement and incisiveness of Tevez and Silva. It was telling that Silva achieved more in thirty seconds after coming on than Jo did in the preceeding hour.
City far from deserved to lose and Notts County, for all of their endeavour rarely troubled Joe Hart, but it is nonetheless disappointing that it took a strike ten minutes from time against lower league opposition to force what is clearly an unwanted replay. The replay should be navigated comfortably (as was the case against Leicester) yet it may mean Mancini deploys some of the players after all he obviously wanted to sit out.
If progression is achieved, the side will take on Aston Villa at home in round 5.