City were held to their first home league stalemate since November 2010 when Everton came to town on Wednesday night, a result which, though not ideal, does keep them third in the table and within touching distance of Arsenal and Leicester above them.
The supporters who battled their way through the filthy weather, traffic congestion and public transport failures to get to the stadium were treated to a drab first half in which neither side really looked like they were serious about winning the game.
However, things improved after the interval and City in particular were much better as they dominated possession and forged some decent openings. Sadly though, none of them were decent enough to result in a goal and to top it all off, the Blues were denied an absolutely blatant, cast iron, stonewall, dyed in the wool (I could go on) penalty by referee Roger East when Raheem Sterling was clearly brought down in the box by John Stones in injury time.
Here’s how I rated the 12 men in sky blue on a frustrating but not overly disappointing night.
1 Joe Hart – 8/10
Wasn’t called into action too often during the course of the evening but did exactly what needed to be done when he was. His smothering of a decent chance for Gerard Deulofeu in the first half was important and he came off his line and bravely collected the ball from the feet of Romelu Lukaku on several occasions. Clean sheets are not to be sniffed at this season but you can bet Joe is as disappointed as anyone with the result on what was his 250th appearance for the club.
3 Bacary Sagna – 7/10
He may be the subject of the stupidest football chant of all time but this guy is getting closer and closer to being one of my favourite current City players with each passing game. Against Everton he defended impeccably and got forward well, spending most of the second half camped deep in enemy territory, often making dangerous overlapping runs beyond Jesús Navas and whipping crosses in. I’ll be very disappointed if he isn’t in the running of the Player of the Year award at the end of the season because he’s consistently been one of our best performers so far.
26 Martín Demichelis – 7/10
People had every right to be worried about how the 35-year-old would fare in this one but, a couple of moments in which his lack of pace was exposed aside, he actually had a very good game. Positional awareness has always been one of his main strengths and he put on something of a masterclass on Wednesday night, always seeming to be in the right place at the right time to clear the danger. In addition to that, he also brought the ball out from the back well on several occasions and even tried to overlap Raheem Sterling on the left wing at one stage! More of that please Micho.
30 Nicolás Otamendi – 8/10
After a period of extremely iffy form from the Argentinian, this was a match in which he looked every inch the dominating defender City spent so much money on in the summer. Romelu Lukaku barely got a sniff all night thanks to Otamendi’s excellent shadow play and he defended decisively and proactively throughout. A lot of the criticism that’s come his way in the first half of his first season in English football has been rather unfair but a few more performances like this one will be a sure fire way to keep the critics off his back.
22 Gaël Clichy – 7/10
A couple of moments in the first half in which Lukaku seemed to be finding too much space in between Demichelis and Clichy aside, this was a solid evening’s work from the Frenchman, particularly defensively. He seems to have lost a bit of his pace this season, possibly as a result of his injury troubles but also because he’ll be turning 31 in the summer. That said, he offered tireless support to Sterling down the left despite never looking particularly dangerous in an attacking sense. I like Aleksandar Kolarov, but I definitely feel a lot more comfortable about our ability to defend when Clichy’s on the pitch.
6 Fernando – 7/10
Did my eyes deceive me or did Fernando and Yaya Touré play together in a midfield two and not look completely shambolic? This was a decent night’s work from the Brazilian in which he helped break up play in the middle of the park and recycled possession well, even making some intelligent forward passes at times. His limitations are there for all to see, but he can be a useful asset when he wants to be.
42 Yaya Touré – 7/10
Came as close to scoring as anyone when his first half header was saved by Tim Howard and generally had a good, if relatively unremarkable evening. The lung-busting, defence-shredding runs everyone sees in their mind’s eye when they think of Yaya may be all but gone, but what he still does is pass the ball exceptionally well and there were plenty of examples of this against Everton. In fact, he barely gave the ball away all night and that’s such an underrated skill for a player at this level to have. Feel free to tell me what an idiot I am for not thinking he’s a disgrace to the shirt in the comments section below, though.
15 Jesús Navas – 7/10
Was heavily involved in pretty much all of his team’s attacks, particularly in the second half, and never stopped plugging away all night. His crossing was very hit and miss but given that he seems to have so little to aim for in the box (more on that later) it’s difficult to be overly critical of him. His willingness to keep things simple and not risk ceding possession in attacking areas won’t always win him too many plaudits but does hint at what is perhaps an underappreciated footballing brain inside that pretty little head of his. I was one of his biggest critics a few months ago, but it’s fair to say that I have forgiven Jesús.
7 Raheem Sterling – 7/10
I personally thought this was one of Sterling’s best City games for a while. Manuel Pellegrini seems to have realised recently that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with playing a 4-2-3-1 formation that has 4-4-2 tendencies and in the first half Sterling seemed to be rather ineffectively playing as Sergio Agüero’s strike partner. After the break he moved out to his usual position on the left flank and made life very difficult for makeshift Everton right back John Stones, to the point that he was brought down in the box late on. How on earth that wasn’t a penalty I will never, ever know. Surely for it to be a goal kick, the referee has to be suggesting that Sterling dived? To neither show him a yellow card nor award a penalty is cowardice, plain and simple. The excellent run the 21-year-old went on in which he beat three or four men before hitting a tame effort at goal pretty much sums him up at the moment, but overall this was much, much better.
17 Kevin De Bruyne – 6/10
I had to laugh when I logged onto Twitter after the game on Wednesday night and saw a fellow City fan labelling KDB a “waste of money” due to the fact that his pass completion statistics are lower than many of his teammates. He does give the ball away a lot and it can be frustrating to watch at times (as it was against Everton) but having the courage to try things in the attacking third should never be discouraged, especially when you’ve got a guy with his record of goals and assists. This was far from a flawless night’s work from the Belgian but you can be sure another great performance isn’t too far away.
10 Sergio Agüero – 7/10
Looked sharp and dangerous and maybe should have scored when he found himself one on one with Howard in the second half. I’m still far from convinced that playing him as a lone striker is a good idea, especially since he often has to drop far deeper than he should be in order to get the ball, but I can also sympathise with Pellegrini’s predicament in that regard. The main issue with the 4-2-3-1 formation seems to come when the ball goes wide, as it almost exclusively does when teams defend deep against City. It’s all well and good whipping cross after cross into the box, but if the only target is Agüero surrounded by four defenders then the odds of him receiving the ball are always going to be stacked against him. Still, good to see he appears to be over his most recent injury. Please let it stay that way.
21 David Silva – Came on too late to mark
Came off the bench for the last twenty minutes and gave City a bit of extra guile and creativity. His link up play with Agüero very nearly resulted in a goal but sadly, it wasn’t to be.
72 Kelechi Iheanacho – Didn’t come on
The decision to start Kelechi in the FA Cup at the weekend was an easy one for Manuel Pellegrini to make – picking him to play in games like Wednesday night’s is a different matter altogether. A lot of people were disappointed that the youngster didn’t at least come off the bench against Everton but I think I can see it from Pellegrini’s point of view. If the 11 players who were on the pitch at the end of the match weren’t able to score a goal then it probably wasn’t going to happen, and who’s to say bringing another striker on wouldn’t have resulted in City losing the game somehow? That said, Kelechi has done absolutely nothing to suggest he can’t be trusted to play in this team and there will have to come a time when his manager takes a leap of faith and gives him a go, because you can be sure he won’t let us down.
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Written by Dan Burke