The tale of the tape for Manchester City v. Wigan at the Etihad before kickoff would have led you to believe that the fight might be stopped.
Both teams had played 31 matches. That was the final similarity.
City had a goal differential of plus-30; Wigan's was minus-20. City had 65 points in the league; Wigan had 31. Second in the table versus 18th. Real Goliath and David stuff.
So, of course, City split possession, had fewer shots on target, took almost 83 minutes to score and eked out a 1-0 home victory against a clearly inferior side. A side, mind you, that City will see in the FA Cup final in May.
Mission not accomplished. Not really, anyway.
Players rated on a scale of 1 (disgrace to the crest) to 5 (credit to mankind.)
Joe Hart: He kept another clean sheet—that's 15 in his last 26 league starts if you're scoring at home (or even if you're not)—and he made a terrific save to rob Franco DiSanto and keep the Sky Blues from shockingly falling behind. Still, this was a fairly pedestrian performance from Hart, who was rescued by Joleon Lescott's clearance of a Shaun Maloney effort off the line. 3.
Micah Richards: It was nice to see him back from his awful injury, but if this is how he is going to play going forward, he might want to spend some more time in the infirmary. While it is understandable that he would be rusty, this was not Barcelona out there against him today. Though the way he played, it sometimes looked that way. 2.
Vincent Kompany: City has a few players who, as they go, so goes the side. Kompany is one of them, and while desultory play from the XI today might be excusable following significant wins over Manchester United and Chelsea, you expect more from the captain. Or at least you should. 2.
Joleon Lescott: This space is probably Lescott's last stand as far as editorial defense is concerned. It is still unclear exactly what Lescott did to earn so much bench time this season. Roberto Mancini is not still blaming him for that errant back pass against QPR in May, is he? No matter, he was pretty good today. 3.
Aleksandar Kolarov: Micah Richards was rusty from injury. Kolarov was rusty because, well, he is sort of a man without a place in this side. He is not good enough to unseat Gael Clichy or Pablo Zabaleta, and he is not lethal enough on free kicks any more to be useful in that regard. Meh. 2.
Samir Nasri: Having scored against Chelsea on Sunday, it sort of figured that given the season Nasri has produced he might be, er, less than special against Wigan. Say this for Nasri: in this regard, he never disappoints. 2.
Javi Garcia: Is it wrong to say out loud that the "big signing" from last summer's transfer window maybe should not need to be substituted off in the 59th minute (absent injury, of course) this far into the season? At some point, if Garcia had "it," you would have seen it by now. What to do with Garcia might be City's most pressing problem this summer. 2.
Gareth Barry: Again, Barry is nobody's idea of electric, but on these days when the rest of his teammates seem like they'd rather go see a movie, at least Mancini can depend on Barry to show up, play his 90-plus minutes and put in a good shift. 3.
Yaya Toure: As noted with Kompany above, as Yaya goes, the Citizens often go. Yaya was active and controlling in the midfield as ever (against Wigan you would almost assume this) and he tried to get Edin Dzeko on the board with a slick pass as time started to slip away in the second half. Unfortunately for Yaya, Dzeko had come on at halftime, not with 10 minutes left, so there was no chance of Dzeko finishing that play. 3.
Sergio Aguero: Tough to penalize a guy for playing hurt, and given that he was a question mark for both the United and Chelsea victories, it would not be absurd to say he should have come on late in this one rather than early. But strikers have to strike to be valuable, and Aguero did not contribute much on this day. 2.
Carlos Tevez: Good thing No. 32 showed up, eh? This match was a bit reminiscent of the 1-0 victory that Tevez more or less singlehandedly produced against Swansea City in October. Aguero scores more highlight-reel goals in the main, but Tevez's rocket today was no slouch. 4.
Edin Dzeko (46th minute for Aguero): At this point, Mancini should not dress Dzeko unless a fortune teller advises him before the match that City will be down a goal or two with ten minutes left. Dzeko is better than Messi given that circumstance. But on days like today, when Aguero has to come off and someone has to go in and provide some offense, Mancini would be better off giving Costel Pantilimon a field kit. 2.
James Milner (59th minute for Garcia): Good on Milner for answering the call this way. You have to imagine that Mancini did not want to have to use Milner in this one since this was a day for giving some oft-used players some much-needed rest. Unfortunately, Garcia could not give City enough to make Milner's entrance unnecessary. 3.
Scott Sinclair (83rd minute for Richards): It would be nice to be able to say that Sinclair's entry, which coincided with the timing of Tevez's goal, was anything more than a coincidence. It would also be not strictly true. No grade.