An entertaining but ultimately frustrating stalemate against Big Sam's West Ham. Time will tell whether this is two points dropped or one point gained...
For all the predictable focus on Mario Balotelli, withdrawn grumpily with 20minutes remaining here and still without a league goal this season, Edin Dzeko was the bigger disappointment again flattering to deceive when summoned to appear from the outset. On numerous occasions City's smart exchanges around the area foundered at his feet due to a heavy first touch or an inability to hold off his challenger. He is undoubtedly a more effective performer when coming from the bench and City play more directly - shedding his supersub tag may be easier said than done.
Dzeko lined up as one of three forwards in a bold starting line up from Mancini, partnered by Mario and Tevez – afforded a good reception from the home support - with Nasri supporting from midfield. James Milner was a casualty of the warm up meaning Gareth Barry came into the first 11 alongside Yaya at the base of midfield. In the absence of the unfortunate Richards and with Zabaleta still on the comeback trail after injury and perhaps with one eye on Tuesday's must-win encounter with Ajax, Kolo Toure made an appearance at right back and acquitted himself well against a potentially tricky customer in Matt Jarvis. Despite not being able to offer the width and attacking exuberance of Richards and Zabableta, Kolo was defensively sound and more than a match in terms of speed for Jarvis who got little or no change out of him all afternoon.
Toure was part of a defensive unit that finally seems to have found its rhythm, holding 3 clean sheets out of the last 4 domestic fixtures. Vincent Kompany was recognisable as the centre half of last season and the again impressive Nastastic was an equally unforgiving opponent. The young Serbian continues to add to his burgeoning reputation, very comfortable and calm in possession and strong aerially, with each performance he is ensuring that Lescott’s days as a first pick at centre half are numbered. The vastly underrated Clichy maintained his excellent run of recent form to complete the unbreached quartet.
West Ham were quickly out of the blocks, their WYSIWYG nature ruffling a few feathers early on. Kevin Nolan scored from what appeared to be a level position but was flagged for offside and Yossi Benayoun and Diame both went close before City had really settled. From then on the possession and control was in most part excellent with Tevez scheming from a deep role again and Nasri chiefed with the task of midfield creator in David Silva’s continuing absence. As mentioned, the extra width down the right hand side was at times lacking and for all the forward thinking play City were often camped on the edge of the West Ham box, attempting to threat the ball through the eye of the proverbial needle. That said there were plenty of openings spurned, with Balotelli both the biggest threat and the most profligate. Gareth Barry also missed badly when running clear in the 2nd period and Dzeko was lethargic when presented with openings. Aguero saw his one opportunity well blocked.
Alas, the cathartic breakthrough never arrived and perhaps such an outcome would have been harsh on West Ham. With a number of big fixtures coming up – not even taking into account the sudden death run of games in the Champions League - City will need Balotelli to start firing and for Aguero to reacquaint himself with the scoring feeling if the results are to be positive. Matches against Spurs, Chelsea, Everton and United will give us a much clearer indication of whether City will be able to accelerate into the new year, or will remain stuck in second gear behind the early pace setters yet to hit the heights of last seasons blistering opening months.
Man of the Match: Carlos Tevez