Date:Sunday December 2 2012
Everton are about as welcome at your football ground as flatulence in a space-suit. It begins with their fans trying to gain access to your stadium with Junior or OAP tickets when they are clearly neither of those, and when they are sent to the box office to upgrade their tickets, they produce a forged £20 note with David Moyes head on it. Maybe they should be locked up for denigrating our esteemed Monarch.
It gets no better when they present themselves on to your field of play. They might have been praised in some quarters for their flying start against the background of being skint, but the pundits clearly do not examine the quality of their football.
You will have deduced from my opening gambit that I am not a fan in any shape or form of anything that has David Moyes stamp, or head on it. Ever since the acrimonious exit of Joleon Lescott, Moyes has escalated his exception to Manchester City's wealth, clearly jealous of the buttons, bows and bangles at his disposal. He probably over-performs in the eyes of many, but it is with a brand of football that I cannot bring myself to like.
For once, City's line-up looked to be one to take the game to Everton and mix it in the land of the giants, who don't think twice about seeking any advantage they can, even if not quite by means that fit the laws of the game.
With two raiding full backs in Kolarov and Maicon, Dzeko up top to benefit and the supposedly buzzing trio of Silva, Tevez and Nasri immediately behind, it looked as if City for once planned to play the match in Everton's half. And there were early signs of that but Kolarov pulled up rubbing his groin after only five minutes. Plan B was to enter play-anywhere Zabaleta into the fray.
And so the clear tactic was going to grind to an early halt leaving Dzeko once again to forage alone as the spearhead, work hard without the ball and not benefit from the tactics that are designed to bring out the best in him.
For their part those from the wrong end of the East Lancs Road systematically set about breaking up anything City tried to create. They are not shy to give away free kicks in City's half if it gives them time to get their men back to the edge of their own box, when the give up the ball, and try to start again. I have said before in these pages that they remind me of the Italian teams of old.
And the chief exponent of this is Fellaini, who thinks not twice about leaving a foot in conveniently at a level that will catch an opponent's ankle and inflict damage. No wonder Silva leaves the field his ankles encased in ice bags.
Having said that they do play to their strengths and there was no better example of this that when Baines delivered a Wimbledon-style cross to the far post and the ten foot forward was stationed by City's smallest defender, at the back stick, to drive in a powerful header which Hart did well to save. However the said Belgian bundled Zabaleta away before following up the rebound to put Everton ahead. This is where you don't want to be and I suspect if the younger Neville was playing it would have been time to retreat to the 18 yard line and keep City out.
But this City side is better than that. Ten minutes later as play built up down City's left a cross in the direction of Dzeko saw Fellaini take the risk of pulling his shirt and bundling him to the ground, with also the possibility of the ball hitting another defender's arm. Mr Probert pointed to the spot and despite Howard's break dancing on the line, Tevez waited for him to dive one way and then promptly hit the ball straight down the middle.
Fellaini and Yaya were drawn into a midfield battle which culminated in Yaya hobbling for a while. Decisions became unfathomable, none more so than the puzzling yellow card given to Lescott at times when red-card tackles seemed to be flying in from a team in a different colour of Blue.
Hart was called upon to make two nervous looking saves, but did keep Everton at bay, whereas City didn't have any cutting edge today. Inexplicably Mancini took his more likely match-winner off after 70 minutes to the disgust of a crowd that has clearly forgiven Tevez his indiscretions of last season, and sent on Aguero. He apparently left on Dzeko so that he could mark Fellaini at set pieces of which Everton were afforded many and looked to cause panic every time.
Mancini did however exchange Dzeko for Balotelli late on to cast doubt over his own arguments. Whether it was Dzeko or Balotelli, neither came in from deep at the far post, as Fellaini did, as crosses came in from many directions, including even Lescott. Why do City's front men take near post or centre goal and get under the ball when a cross comes in? It still happens.
City probably finished the stronger without looking threatening in the box. At the other end Hart was happy to parry a dangerous free kick away for a corner.
For me this was another case of two valuable points offered up to the opposition. Yes, Everton are awkward customers as they have proved twice recently at a venue near you, especially when they helped City win the league last year by forcing a 4-4 draw in Stretford. But essentially they are beatable. Their defence was more open yesterday and I think if Aguero would have started and got to work in the channels, he would have profited.
The City back line, the goal apart, looked reasonably solid and there is no doubt that Kompany is getting back to form as he was given the on screen man of the match. Lescott looked to have benefitted from his period on the bench and out wide Maicon looked a threat especially when he stung Howard's hands with one of his specials and Zaba was just...Zaba.
I thought Barry was exceptional in his usual role, but Yaya didn't really get going...again. Tevez was hungry and always gave Everton food for thought. The stadium, except for 2800 scousers was disappointed to see him replaced. Silva continues to be the offensive mastermind and Nasri continues to flatter to deceive. This was really a game for the inured Milner.
It concerns me that we now have only 2 injury-free full backs and that it might now be necessary to promote someone from the Elite Development Squad. I would give Jeremy Helan a run out, if he is not out on loan somewhere.
I think City should accept that Europe is not the place to be this season and get themselves back into the league form they were in last season. I still think that with no Europa League, City can win the domestic double this season, especially if Stretford stay in the Champions League. I suspect Chelsea have "gone" unless they can unwrap Falcao for Christmas, or someone else capable of hitting the net regularly.
City are still unbeaten in the league and haven't been beaten in a league match at the Etihad perhaps since it became the Etihad. I wonder who will be looking to upset that statistic next week? No doubt the red-nosed knight's mind games will extend to the number of penalties City seem to get at home, in his odious attempt to influence the arbitrators.
all times East Manchester
Tu 04Dec 19h45 B Dortmund, Signal Iduna Park, CL
Su 09Dec 13h30 The rags, The Etihad, PL
Sa 15Dec 12h45 Newcastle, St James' Park, PL
Sa 22Dec 15h00 Reading, The Etihad, PL
We 26Dec 15h00 Sunderland, Stadium of Light, PL
Sa 29Dec 15h00 Norwich, Carrow Road, PL
Date:Sunday December 2 2012
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|4. Man City||26||18||3||5||42||57|
|6. Man Utd||28||14||6||8||15||48|
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