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Thoughts on the draw at Birmingham

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Perhaps there is something about games against Birmingham that lead to a number of questions about the abilities of this City side.

The fixture at Eastlands earlier in the season resulted in a goalless draw (not to mention the reaction of Carlos Tevez after being substituted and boos from the stands at the final whistle) that brought into question the sides' ability to break down a stubborn opposition.

Well last night may well have ended in another draw between the two sides but this time the questions were at the other end of the pitch and whether it is the defence (so scrooge-like earlier in the season when racking up clean sheets) that is hampering the side and threatening not only hopes of the title, but of a top four finish.

The side Roberto Mancini deployed was met with universal agreement. Back came the spine of Vincent Kompany and Nigel de Jong, whilst Carlos Tevez and David Silva were restored to add drive and creativity to the attack. With Yaya Toure ruled out, James Milner replaced him in midfield: the idea being that it would be largely midfield with Micah Richards and Aleksandar Kolarov providing the width and supplementing Tevez and Silva.

Over the course of the ninety minutes, the trio were far too static though, most noticeably a lack of drive from Milner. Of course the side were not helped by injuries to both Richards (after a nasty clash of heads) and de Jong which altered the dynamic if not the shape of the formation. More was expected more from Milner though after some bright showings in the Cup recently. Wistful thinking on my part perhaps, but after not going out on loan, I'm sure I'm not alone in hoping Michael Johnson can make an impression at some stage this season. How the midfield could have done with the thrust and drive he is capable of bringing.

Silva was probably the bright spot last night but the trio of him, Tevez and Dzeko looked disjointed far too often. In the second half we saw Dzeko again at times appear to almost swap roles with Tevez and be jettisoned out wide. Perhaps this is by design or simply a natural reaction to Tevez drifitng in?

A stark problem last night though was the lack of control. I waxed lyrical numerous times early in the season about how the game plan was being played to perfection in terms of restricting space and both dominating and controlling possession. At present this is lacking and last night (particular when Vieira came on - and tried to adjust to the pace of the game - the midfield was too one-dimensional and allowed Birmingham to pressure, and ultimately profit. Vieira's pace (or lck of it) resulted in the penalty being conceded. However Mancini interpreted it, it was a penalty.

On the topic of pace, one thing that was noticeable was the inability of the side to change gear or up the tempo of their play when needed. Again, when leading and in control of a game this does not matter as the side is dictating the play. This was also the case at Notts County on Sunday, when, having got on level terms there was a lack of urgency to press for the winner. Last night, when Birmingham levelled, there was no response from City and the side had to make do with a point.

I'm not often one to point too much to other teams but in the same situation, United, Arsenal, Chelsea or Tottenham would have attempted to hit back. Perhaps the injury to Adam Johnson removes this option to a degree, but it is a failing that it is becoming all too familiar.

The cushion the side had over Chelsea and tottenham has now been whittled away. The derby is of course looming large on the horizon, a game, you feel, is probbly the last chance to stay in the title race. It will also be interesting to see Mancini's approach knowing victory has to be attained.

Mtters had been bubbling away for a number of games but boiled over last night. The reaction has to start against West Brom on Saturday.