WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: Nicky Shorey (C) and Graham Dorrans (R) of West Bromwich are beaten by David Silva (L) of Manchester City are beaten during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City at The Hawthorns on December 26, 2011 in West Bromwich, England. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Frustration was the watchword of a Boxing Day clash that saw City dominate possession and territory, yet thanks in large part to a solid defensive performance from West Brom they had to be content with the draw from a game that saw them fail to score for the first time in the Premier League this season. The first half had been a rather listless affair but snapped into life after the break as City began to find their stride. Despite a trio of substitutions, however, City couldn't find a way through rigid opposition and although they got themselves into several good positions lacked the final touch of quality or incisiveness to make the difference.
Looking at the numbers after the game, it was surprising that West Brom had so little of the ball as watching the game they did appear to carry an attacking threat alongside their strong defensive showing. In terms of possession however, City dominated (72.5%-27.5%) and the passing numbers were equally telling (606/670-174/239), particularly in the final third were West Brom managed just 45/79 and completed no through balls. Although City managed to convert this territorial and possession advantage into chances (17) they were limited to just four shots on target during the game.
Whilst there was frustration in front of goal at the back City notched up another clean sheet (their third on the bounce) and it may well be that Kolo Toure has begun to edge his way back in as first choice alongside Vincent Kompany as opposed to merely spelling Joleon Lescott. Toure was not impressive in possession (completing a number of passes in the opposition half) but he led the team in Interceptions and Clearances and was second in terms of Tackles won. Given it was only a matter of weeks ago that he appeared to slip behind Stefan Savic in the pecking order it is some turnaround for the Ivorian and given his form The African Cup of Nations looks to ill timed in terms of his club ambitions.
"I am disappointed only because we play 1 January and 3 January and Liverpool play 30 December and then 3 January against us. I think that at this moment this is not correct. "I'm not happy with this situation because two days [of rest] in this moment when we play every three days is not correct. Sometimes the fixtures can [be] better because to play one game after four days and for us after 48 hours can make a difference."
Although top at Christmas, City have signed their handy cushion eroded by United and given their Cup commitments in early January it is setting up to be a testing time for Mancini and his side: ideal preparation some might say for what will likely be a tense final stretch to the 2011/12 season.
There has been intense focus on both City and United given they are neck and neck in the Premier League table and whenever points are dropped or an emphatic win obtained there is inevitably much read into the longer term ramifications. This scrutiny though has allowed Tottenham handily position themselves, largely under the radar with the microscope pointed firmly in Manchester's direction. After an early season struggle they have rallied to the point whereby winning their game in hand (to be played mid-January) could see them just all but a win away from top spot. Could the title race really not only be the preserve of the Manchester clubs this season?