Blackburn Rovers vs. Manchester City: 6 Things We Learned
A much-changed Manchester City side were held to a 1-1 draw by Blackburn Rovers in their FA Cup third round match at Ewood Park. City took the lead through Alvaro Negredo, but Scott Dann's equaliser means City now face a replay later this month.
It's far from ideal with the Blues' already crowded fixture list, but given Blackburn nearly won it they'll be grateful to still be in the draw.
Here we look back at some of the talking points to emerge from this absorbing cup fixture.
1: Negredo and Dzeko Are Not the Ideal Pairing
Sometimes two players are so similar in terms of their build and style of play they simply don't work in tandem. On the evidence we've seen of Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko, they may well fall into this category.
At Swansea on New Year's Day, and again today, they started together and never looked like hitting it off. They both make similar runs and want to occupy similar space on the pitch, and as a result they don't complement one another.
Whereas Negredo and Sergio Aguero dovetail beautifully, with one small and nimble, the other powerful and good in the air, Dzeko and the Spaniard are just too similar. It seems a pairing unlikely to ever really work successfully.
In the absence of Aguero, manager Manuel Pellegrini may have to find an alternative solution.
2: City Have Figured out How to Get Results When Playing Badly
Earlier in the season, City had a habit of losing away games when playing well. The 3-2 defeat to Aston Villa springs instantly to mind-arguably City's best domestic away performance. Dominant in possession and inventive in attack, the game was largely played in the Villa half. Yet somehow City managed to lose.
However, since the defeat to Sunderland in early November, City haven't lost, despite not being at their best on a number of occasions. The games at Southampton, Swansea and now Blackburn are all clear examples of a side who have learned how to come away from a game with something despite playing poorly.
City must take the positives from this match. They were far from their best, yet they remain in the competition.
3: Boyata Is Unlikely to Make the Grade
Dedryck Boyata was given a rare start for this game, but found himself sent off with six minutes remaining, a stupid second booking putting his side in danger of a cup exit.
It's clear that Boyata is struggling to make the grade at City. Loan moves to Bolton Wanderers and FC Twente were supposed to kick-start some decent form, but he looks uncomfortable on the ball and struggles with reading the game.
He started at right-back here and he is most certainly never going to make a career at the top-level in that position. He should seek a move to a lower league side prepared to give him a chance as a centre-half.
4: Silva Is Sometimes Wasted out Wide
For all the quality Manchester City have added to their squad in recent seasons, David Silva remains their most creative and talented player. In terms of technique and intelligence, he is arguably the best player currently operating in the English game.
Silva has had a superb season, but there is a feeling that when he plays in a wide position, like he did in this game, his best attributes are somewhat blunted. Silva can damage teams far more from a central role where he can dictate the pace of the game.
Of course, he isn't an out-and-out wide man in the mould of, say, Jesus Navas. Silva will drift inside and cause damage cutting in from a wide position, but in games like today there is a feeling that City may be missing something when he plays on the left, rather than central and close to the striker.
When both Aguero and Negredo are fit, it seems logical to accommodate the two and play Silva on the left, but with Aguero out injured, why not allow Silva to play in his best role.
5: City Have Outstanding Travelling Support
City officially took 7000 away supporters to this game, but it's thought plenty more bought tickets in the home end. The Darwen End was a sea of blue and they comprehensively out-sung the home fans for 90 minutes.
Being able to rely on such superb support is a huge bonus to this City side, who will need their fans over the course of what looks set to be a long, arduous season.
6: Replay Looks Like Scuppering City's Mid-Season Friendly
A report this week by Jamie Jackson in the Guardian suggested that City were set to travel to Abu Dhabi after the fixture with Newcastle on the 12th of January to play a friendly against Al Ain. The match was a show-piece event to mark the opening of the Arabian Gulf League champions' new stadium, the Hazza bin Zayed.
However, the replay with Blackburn means that is now unlikely to go ahead. With all the travelling involved during such a hectic period, it's probably a blessing in disguise that the club won't be able to partake.
City have a two-legged Capital One Cup semi-final to negotiate this month, as well as three more league fixtures before the end of January. A friendly in the UAE was hardly the best idea given their schedule.