Terrace Talk: Unfair to simply blame stain-free Bravo or Otamendi and John Stones, the twin columns of salt

With Everton’s first proper shot of the afternoon resting comfortably in the back of Claudio Bravo’s net after 34 minutes, it was hard not to think City were already well on their way to claiming a thoroughly unwanted league double on Merseyside this season, writes Simon Curtis.

Terrace Talk: Unfair to simply blame stain-free Bravo or Otamendi and John Stones, the twin columns of salt

And so it came to pass, but not before Bravo witnessed three more shots go past him, allowing him to close out the match with the impressive goalkeeping figures of no saves made, four goals conceded out of six Everton attempts.

The Chilean must think he has landed in The Land of Smoke and Mirrors.

In front of him, Pep Guardiola’s carefully arranged defence was doing a passable impression of an old people’s home on tea dance parade after the fig rolls have run out. Nicolas Otamendi, always keen for a headed challenge, ended the game being pole-axed by Romelu Lukaku’s vague chest touch and partner John Stones, proudly strutting around his old stomping ground, walloped a clearance straight into Seamus Coleman to set up a comical fourth goal for Everton.

That it was scored by an 18-year old debutant, who looked ten years younger than even that tender age, seemed to underline how City had been undressed by their opponents’ youthful approach

When Roberto Martinez took over on Merseyside from David Moyes in 2013, a sea change came over City’s modern relationship with Everton. Suddenly, Everton wanted to play ball and played it right into City’s hands. This, though, was an unexpected return to the days of blood and thunder under Moyes, when City’s exits from Goodison were invariably of the tails-between-the-legs type.

Never in that time did City receive a dressing down of this order, however.

With a slow central midfield of Pablo Zabaleta and Yaya Toure being bypassed at will by nippy youngster Tom Davies, a passable reincarnation of his 1970 title winning uncle Alan Whittle, City’s technically sound but unaccountably rickety defence was laid bare time and again.

Finding themselves 10 points behind leaders Chelsea on a weekend that saw Spurs and Arsenal both win 4-0 and, perhaps most crucially, the West Londoners reassert themselves with an easy win at Leicester, City’s forlorn retreat from the Goodison turf seemed somehow even more critical in its abject timing.

The Catalan’s pass pass pass mantra is all very well, but doing this with the tired remnants of the Roberto Mancini regime and the rotting offcuts from a Manuel Pellegrini experiment that ended poorly, looks to offer only forlorn hope of success.

Guardiola sat motionless on the sidelines, eyes unblinking, an ashed-faced look of horror struggling across his features. Maybe the cold at Goodison had frozen those swarthy cheeks or perhaps the realisation that the likes of Zabaleta and Toure, Clichy and Sagna are not long for this world of cut and thrust was making him grind his teeth uncontrollably.

The Catalan had been forced to watch a reasonable effort at pass and move come unstuck at the first opportunity. On this occasion, it had been Clichy’s errant pass. Everton, onto it quicker than a Jack Russell spotting an unattended hotdog, were ahead in the blink of an eye.

Thus the careful precision approach had melted quietly away at the first hint of exuberant pressure.

But it would be churlish to just stare glassy-eyed at Bravo in his stain-free kit, at Otamendi, and John Stones, the twin columns of salt, at poor bewildered Gael Clichy, at the Chugging Brothers Zabaleta and Yaya. This was a team failure, with the normally effective David Silva and Raheem Sterling both taking three touches when one was needed and Sergio Aguero waiting until the 71st minute to bring a save out of Joel Robles.

Even Kevin de Bruyne, starting with three sumptuous through balls, disappeared into the smoky hinterland in a dispiriting second period.

To think the first 15 minutes had featured a flurry of clever passing, leading to dominant possession of the ball deep in Everton’s half.

The final outcome was so far removed from the bright start as to be like day and night. Indeed it is precisely in the dark where Guardiola finds himself right now, with a considerable challenge facing him to illuminate the second half of City’s season with anything more than a continuation of the current pass pass concede mantra.

If you enjoyed this you may like our latest podcast presented by Larry Ryan.

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  • And Ken Rooney tries to lift Fantasy Football managers out of their mid-season slump

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