Only a late Samir Nasri goal, fumbled awkwardly into the net by Vito Mannone, prevented a second home defeat of the season for City, after Connor Wickham's brace had given Sunderland the lead earlier in the second half. That came despite the home side taking a lead after less than two minutes, and looking for all the world as though they would go on to win the game comfortably at those early stages.
A largely unimaginative final-third performance, however, contributed to Manuel Pellegrini's men not making the most of some shoddy Sunderland defensive work. In that regard especially, David Silva was far more of miss a for City than Yaya Toure and his powerful forward runs.
In-form and injured
Yaya Toure went off injured against Liverpool at the weekend, while Silva was an unexpected absence from City's line-up against Sunderland.
Man City will be without Yaya Toure tonight. His goals have contributed directly to 8 points in the Premier League this season.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 16, 2014
As for #MCFC, v disappointing. Toure, Silva missing, but City's level has dipped sharply since January. Should be better than this— Oliver Kay (@OliverKayTimes) April 16, 2014
Those two have been in imperious form for the Citizens of late, contributing countless scoring opportunities between them in tight games over the past six weeks, with eight goals between them in the six matches preceding the Sunderland draw.
They are City's two biggest threats in the final third, with Sergio Aguero having been out injured for half the season, and both are of course big losses.
Sunderland Standing Off
The reason it is Silva, not Toure, who was the biggest miss for City against Sunderland, was the sheer amount of space afforded ahead of the defensive line by the away players.
There were several occasions when Aguero—making his first start since his comeback from injury—and Nasri were given room to run forward with the ball at their feet in the final third.
Were Silva on the pitch, it is pretty much a given that he would have exploited these enormous and, in the first half at least, consistent gaps to pick up possession and either play in team-mates or attempt to score himself—much like his excellent goal against Hull, for example.
Aguero being rusty and Nasri not being on top of his game instead meant that these chances to attack the space were consistently squandered, with shots being fired off target from range and James Milner repetitively threading through-balls to nobody from just outside the penalty box.
Can Manchester City still win the Premier League?
Stevan Jovetic immediately brought a more incisive and intelligent threat to the Manchester City attack when he replaced Aguero just shy of the hour mark. The Montenegrin tried scooped passes over the defence, low shots from range and dribbling directly at the back line to make the difference, and his introduction coincided with City's best attacking spell of the match.
City laboured for far too long without any clear penetration, without particularly good movement off the ball and certainly without much power and drive through the final third—attributes which Silva, in particular, brings to the party.
Still in third place, City have one more match in hand on league leaders Liverpool, but having dropped five points in their last two fixtures, their dip in form has come at the worst possible time and is likely to have cost them the title.