Writer: Tranmere Loyal
Date:Saturday November 3 2012
The tight knit and unyielding Boleyn Ground was the venue for City's latest efforts to get their season on track as the lively West Ham United provided the opposition.
A team very much in the image of its manager, Sam Allardyce, awaited Mancini's men as they lined up with a robust look about them. Ground attacker Aguero started on the bench and Silva still hasn't recovered since having to start carrying a heavier pay packet home from Carrington each week.
Kolo was restored at right back in the absence of Richards and Zabaleta through injury. Kompany, Nastastic and Clichy made up a back four that looked convertible to a back three should the Manager so decide.
Milner got the holding midfield role in a centre line that looked narrow and clearly intending to switch and move. Yaya, Nasri and Tevez were to provide the ammunition for the air attack of Balotelli and Dzeko.
The match started lively enough. West Ham play decent stuff at home but there is always an undertone of excessive combativeness which is a signature of Big Sam's teams. They were however a little unlucky to have a well taken early goal by Nolan chalked off with the Assistant ruling that his arm was offside. It was just as well because City's back line was paying too much attention to Carroll and was really all over the place.
After this City started to get into the game and control it without threatening to get the scoreboard rolling. Chances did come notably to Balotelli, but he didn't have his shooting boots on and was getting no joy from the West Ham defence. For his part Dzeko was receiving undue attention and was the victim of a number of challenges that looked a bit lean.
McCartney in particular was in no-nonsense mood and somehow got away with a studs up challenge that if it had been at a football ground just outside Manchester would have been a straight red. No card at all, although he would be admonished later in the day.
There was more fluidity in the build up for City but the craftsmanship offered by Silva was clearly absent as Nasri and Tevez laboured to fill his boots. Yaya drifted between getting forward and holding deep as it was left to Nasri to look left, look right but never quite cross the road.
City were blessed with several free kicks in Kolarov territory but in his absence neither Tevez nor Balotelli worried Jussi in the West Ham net.
For their part the Irons were set up anticipating a City back three with Benayoun and Jarvis wide out, Carroll up top and Nolan in behind. Big Sam had obviously seen the recent frailties and thought he could exploit them, but today VK looked to be more like his commanding best and enjoyed a real tussle with the big Geordie. Nastasic too didn't look afraid of the threat. In the end the back four stayed in place all evening to deny the Hammers the wide spaces they craved and virtually everything they offered was mopped up by the Blues. If anything their better chances fell to Nolan and Hart had to be alert on more than one occasion.
The stats were already loading in favour of City but there was no killer touch, with the Mighty Atom waiting patiently on the bench. In fairness if he was sharper, Balotelli could have taken the ball home, but never quite got on the end of things, looking always to dead ball situations to try his luck.
For the Hammers, Diame, Carroll and Nolan all had a look without getting any luck. It was much the same for City as their best moves, particularly in the second half ended with tame or wayward shooting as Jussi enjoyed the banter with the Blue Mooners behind his goal after half time.
It took "Webbo" an hour to get the yellow card count ticking and after that he collected the claret and blues at regular intervals as their "robust" challenge count got worse as their tiredness grew. But fair play to them, they stuck at it and didn't concede even when Aguero and Barry were introduced.
All of City's forward players had chances but nothing would go their way as the match petered out to a 0-0 draw which hasn't happened in this fixture at 40-plus attempts. On the plus side City can now look to three clean sheets out of four in the Premier League, so something is starting to stir. The next step is to get Silva fit and firing and then we will see the best out of Tevez and Aguero.
Having said that I thought Dzeko had one of his best matches from a starting position. Early on his passing was a bit off radar but his work rate, his constant movement from centre to wide left and strength were there for all to see and there is little doubt that if he gets a run and gets a couple of goals, his confidence will come back and he will be a real threat. Conversely Balotelli still looks a bewiderbeast and never really looks as though he will fit into any system.
As usual Tevez was all graft but it wasn't a day when the opposition were going to yield as they fell into their defensive lines as soon as they gave the ball up and there simply wasn't anyone with Silva's craft to unlock it all.
Having signed Sinclair and Garcia when Hazard and van Persie were up for grabs probably tells us why Brian Marwood has been marginalised, but it didn't help City in east London today. So Stretford sit top of the table on a day of strange results that saw Chelsea held at Swansea and Spurs beaten at home by Wigan. City should really be up there with the Stretfords, but will settle for still being the only unbeaten team in the league and three clean sheets out of four. We play the game the hard way. No nine-men against here, definitely not with Webbo in the middle.
City move on to two winnable home games now against Spurs and Aston Villa and they should be starting to look something like it especially if Silva can be restored.
Date:Saturday November 3 2012
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