Yaya Toure put Manchester City on his broad shoulders against West Bromwich Albion.
The final score of West Brom 2-3 Man City flattered the Baggies a bit, as City were three up with six minutes to play in regulation only to nearly let the home side in through the back door at the end.
More on that in a minute.
A significant talking point for this American world football writer was the 15-minute delay in starting the match due to "traffic congestion on the M5," according to Neil Moxley of the Daily Mail.
Delaying a match due to traffic makes about as much sense as eating a meat pie without utensils or refraining from sticking it to a former team after scoring against them.
Wasn't the start time for this match made public weeks ago? The American response to sports fans getting stuck in traffic is some form of "you should have left earlier."
As Moxley aptly stated, though, "if it was a late, late show in the Black Country...there was little sign of any lethargy."
This match had a little bit of everything. Here come the main talking points.
Even Dzeko may have been surprised to see his name in the City XI.
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has expressed on multiple occasions that he wants a side with sufficient depth to compete for multiple trophies.
Pellegrini spoke in July of needing "two players in each position," per Adam Crafton of the Daily Mail.
Then this week, in quashing rumours surrounding a possible transfer of striker Edin Dzeko, Pellegrini said that "we have a lot of games to play from now until April and, if we want to win trophies, we need important players," according to ESPNFC.com.
Unfortunately for Pellegrini, though, City have frittered away so many Premier League points early in the season that the manager simply cannot afford to play anything but his best XI, even away to a lower-tier side like West Bromwich Albion in a midweek night match.
Dzeko started in place of in-form striker Alvaro Negredo. Aleksandar Kolarov took Gael Clichy's normal place at the outset. Captain Vincent Kompany returned from injury in time to spell the injured Matija Nastasic.
The other eight Sky Blues in the XI started against both Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea City in Manchester City's prior two Premier League matches. And they are all very likely to start at Southampton in Manchester City's next Premier League match, too.
Squad rotation at Manchester City under Pellegrini now comes mainly from players getting hurt or returning from injury. When the best are healthy, the best have to play.
Pellegrini has no margin for error and no tolerance for risk, which is incredible to say this early in the season.
Manchester City fans can only hope that integral players like Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho will not be ground down by the workload.
Dzeko certainly did not lack for effort, but he is still a step down from Negredo.
It is probably understandable. As accurately recited by an ESPNFC.com report, Dzeko "has been consigned to the substitutes’ bench in recent weeks as fellow forwards Alvaro Negredo and Sergio Aguero form a successful partnership."
Dzeko got a rare start against West Bromwich Albion and he did everything City boss Manuel Pellegrini could ever ask him to do, except for the one thing Pellegrini demands that he do.
In Dzeko's defense, he cannot be faulted for Sergio Aguero's sad miss in the sixth minute from a well-weighted Dzeko pass. And Dzeko made a goal-saving defensive header in the 23rd minute that few strikers could pull off—assuming they got back on defense at all.
Truthfully, Aguero did little to work with Dzeko in the manner that Aguero tries to get Alvaro Negredo involved.
Still, if Dzeko wants to play, he has to score goals. Deft passes and full-pitch hustle are just not enough.
Aguero's finishing against West Brom was not up to his standards.
As Sergio Aguero can probably attest, the trouble with being an honors student is that the stray B-plus you get—which most students would be quite happy with—is seen as slacking or an off-day for the pupil who usually gets all A's.
Aguero scored Manchester City's first goal against West Bromwich Albion, a really well-taken strike in the ninth minute that calmed any road jitters the Sky Blues might have been feeling.
Still, Aguero's performance against West Brom can only be called top-drawer if you are feeling charitable.
The Argentine striker's misses from inside the 18-yard box in the sixth and 34th minutes were unlike him and, in truth, left the Baggies in the match far longer than they had any right to be.
And maybe it is unfair to do this to Aguero, but on a day where the score was Luis Suarez 4-0 Norwich City after 74 minutes at Anfield, it must be said that Aguero could have made things a whole lot easier on his teammates with even one more simple finish at The Hawthorns.
Toure's penalty strike put the match away (sort of) for Manchester City.
Fernandinho may have been the most important of Manchester City's summer transfer window acquisitions. Not just for what Fernandinho does, but for what his defensive efforts permit Yaya Toure to do.
In past seasons, Toure had to patrol City's midfield two ways for 90 minutes. As such, his forays into the offensive half seemed like he was tethered by an invisible bungee, lest he get committed too far upfield.
With Fernandinho intercepting so many opposition passes these days, though, Toure's role is more of an opportunistic third striker. Which is great, since Toure's finishing is of striker class.
Toure's brace against West Bromwich Albion came from a sweet sidefoot redirection of an Aleksandar Kolarov cross that left Baggies keeper Boaz Myhill clutching at air and a brutishly effective penalty kick.
On a day where City's strikers managed but one goal between them, Toure doubled their output and carried the Sky Blues to victory.
Pantilimon's awkward play led to the Baggies' two goals.
Erstwhile Manchester City starting keeper Joe Hart gave manager Manuel Pellegrini little choice but to bench him.
Hart's follies in goal piled up in such a number—and in such big spots—that they became the stuff of slideshows.
And all this time you thought only Bleacher Report did slideshows. Hmm.
Anyway, Costel Pantilimon has performed somewhere between adequately and admirably since taking over as City's No. 1 keeper on Oct. 30.
But Pantilimon's play against West Bromwich Albion illustrated why the towering Romanian has been a backup for so long, and why he is probably not the keeper who will feature at City come the new year.
At 6'8", Pantilimon is an imposing force between the sticks and, naturally, is at his best standing up and taking up a lot of the goal or charging out to cut down an opposing shooter's angle.
The trouble is that Pantilimon also likes to leave his feet. At his size and with his relative lack of quickness and agility (compared to Hart, at least), once Pantilimon is down it seems like it takes forever for him to get back up.
Which is how he got credited with an own goal in the 85th minute against West Brom. Pantilimon haplessly saw the ball bounce into his own goal off his prone form after he clumsily tried to cut out a cross.
In second-half stoppage time, Pantilimon was abused by Victor Anichebe on a shot that he never came close to stopping.
Pantilimon did not play poorly against West Brom. Far from it.
But City do not need a keeper to not play poorly. They need a great keeper.
They need the old Hart.
Anichebe's marker thankfully did not seriously threaten City's victory at The Hawthorns.
My secondary role at Bleacher Report is as Featured Columnist on the Philadelphia Phillies of Major League Baseball. Rarely do Premier League football and Major League Baseball intersect in my analysis.
There is a first for everything, though.
Watching Manchester City struggle to forcefully and willfully bury West Bromwich Albion in the second half brought to mind too many Phillies games where a one- or two-run lead got squandered by substandard pitching and shoddy defense.
Having an iffy closer can be an insurmountable problem for even the best of baseball teams. You have to trust me on this.
Well, City's defense and netminding late in matches, particularly on the road, is positively heartburn-inducing.
Earlier this season, City blew late leads at Cardiff City and Aston Villa and went on to lose both matches. Joe Hart fumbled away a point at Stamford Bridge. So the mark of the spotty closer is already on City.
Then against West Bromwich Albion, City managed to turn a 3-0 scoreline in the 85th minute into a final score of 3-2.
Simply put, great teams—championship teams—just don't do this stuff.
City need to find that quality that allows them to stomp their opponents at home and pack it with them for their trips away from the Etihad.
Because they are not much good at closing matches out on the road.