Manchester City had an easy time of things (as expected) in outclassing Watford 3-0 at the Etihad in FA Cup third-round action.
City fans had to expect that Roberto Mancini would use this occasion to rest some of his bigger stars, but Mancini had other ideas.
Joe Hart was given an exceedingly rare rest day, but otherwise City's XI was the sort of quality that Mancini might start at Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge. Particularly when Sergio Aguero is unavailable as he was against Watford.
Nothing is ever a given in football. Still, the home fans' expectations were less "how will we win" but rather "by how many will we win?" And so it came to be.
Players are rated on a scale of 1 (would struggle for minutes in the championship) to 5 (of a different class than the lesser opposition).
Costel Pantilimon: It cannot be easy to face live rounds only every few months and stay as keen as one must be in goal for City. Pantilimon showed he was up to it, keeping a clean sheet and showing little sign of match rust. 3.5.
Pablo Zabaleta: This would have been a higher grade for Zabaleta, City's most reliable defender thus far this season, but for the unnecessary yellow card he picked up in the 29th minute for running his mouth. 3.
Vincent Kompany: The captain is starting to return to proper form, and his steadying presence in central defense contributed greatly to Pantilimon's shutout. 3.5.
Joleon Lescott: Remember when it was not a surprise to see Lescott play ahead of Matija Nastasic? It seems like a long time ago. Lescott acquitted himself well enough against Watford but probably not well enough to take his starting spot back. 3.
Gael Clichy: With his side of the pitch not threatened often, Clichy was not all that busy. He can neither be blamed nor given too much credit for that. 3.
Javi Garcia: And thus begins another episode of the acclaimed City drama, "Life Without Yaya." City acquired Garcia earlier this season in large part due to times like now, when Yaya Toure is playing in the African Cup of Nations and City needs a quality midfielder in his place. Of course, Garcia's game is not much like Yaya's, but he advanced the ball on cue and was quietly solid. 3.5.
Gareth Barry: Speaking of "quietly solid" players—Barry has been everything expected of him this season, and the odd goal from him here and there is really useful. Barry's header in the 44th minute for City's second goal effectively ended the debate. 4.
James Milner: David Silva and the strikers he tees up get all the ink, but it is Milner who is often holding things down in midfield and advancing the ball all the while that frees Silva up to get creative. Milner did that in spades against Watford. 4.
David Silva: Mancini has to be relieved at the recent form of Silva, who is back to doing all of the little, wondrous things with the ball that make City's offense potent when Silva is right. Silva's pass to James Milner began the play that left Barry the relatively easy task of heading the second goal home. 4.
Carlos Tevez: Put to work without his usual counterpart Aguero, Tevez brought to mind the days a few years back when he was City's primary offensive threat. Days like Saturday, when he rifled home City's first goal off a free kick he earned, make you wonder if maybe he misses those days, just a little. 4.
Edin Dzeko: Back on the roller coaster for Dzeko. It is unfair, obviously, to pin Dzeko's performance totally on the question of whether he scores or not. And he had three goals in City's prior two starts, so his form coming into this one was unquestioned. But he did a pretty impressive Andy Carroll impersonation in this match. That is not a compliment. 2.5.
Mario Balotelli (70th minute for Dzeko): Mancini had yet another row with Balo on the training ground this week. These two are no good for each other, but they cannot bear to be apart either, apparently. Balotelli put forth effort in his cameo, and his shot in the 88th minute led to the day's ultimate highlight. 3.
Scott Sinclair (74th minute for Garcia): Not much could be asked from Sinclair entering a 2-0 game in the 74th minute, with the outcome in no doubt and the intensity gone from the match. He was just kind of out there, and he was probably wondering why Mancini did not start him. 2.5.
Marcos Lopes (88th minute for Silva): Imagine being 17 years old, brought onto the pitch for the reigning Premier League champions for the first time and scoring just moments later. Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you...4.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!