Fallen hero Tevez missing out as Johnson adds new chapter to fantasy football story
Manchester City 3 Wolves 1
As Joe Mercer Way approaches the Etihad Stadium, a vast poster of Manchester City's FA Cup-winning team greets supporters, with the happy, smiling face of Carlos Tevez providing the focal point.
It was there before City claimed a ninth victory in 10 league games against Wolves on Saturday to maintain their five-point lead at the top of the Premier League and is likely to remain in place until the next trophy is deposited into the club's trophy cabinet.
But, due to events over the last month, which have seen the Argentinian forward's already uneasy relationship with the club damaged beyond repair, the image of Tevez, with the lid of the cup on his head, will either taint the memory of City's cathartic success forever or raise the simple question as to why on Earth a world-renowned player at the peak of his career should want to turn his back on a club which is striding purposefully towards a golden future?
Once the club's poster boy, Tevez would now be City's forgotten man but for the ongoing dispute over his actions in the Allianz Arena when, according to an internal investigation, he committed five breaches of contract as a result of his conduct on the substitutes' bench.
At 27, Carlos Tevez should be at the summit of his career, playing fantasy football alongside the likes of David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri. But, instead, he is training alone having seen two attempts to leave the club fail in the last 12 months.
It is a sad waste of talent because, as City took their goal tally to an astonishing 36 goals in the league so far this season, the focus was on the breathtaking football now being produced by Roberto Mancini's team.
Tevez could be a part of it, but he has wanted to leave the party for more than a year now. If he thinks the grass will be greener somewhere else, he is clearly colour-blind.
Since that night in Munich, City have played six games in all competitions and won every one, scoring 24 goals in the process. Tevez is clearly not being missed.
Against Wolves, Mancini's team scored three, but they could have scored seven or eight. No team has made such a rampant goalscoring start to a season for more than a century and Villarreal must find a way of stemming City's flow in El Madrigal on Wednesday if they are to have any hope of checking their Champions League progress.
"We try to play always to win and score," Mancini said. "When you build, sometimes you play with two or three strikers or four of five attacking players, but the team isn't balanced.
"You can score, but you can also concede two or three. This year it's important to continue to score but also at the end have the best defence in the Premier League.
"It will be very hard against Villarreal, though, because they are a strong team at home. They are not good in La Liga at this moment but they are still difficult in the Champions League. If we want to do a good job there, we will have to have fresh players and play strongly."
Tevez will not be one of those fresh players. Questions relating to the striker remain off limits at City due to the ongoing situation involving the player, but there is a sense that his team-mates have already moved on without their former captain.
Edin Dzeko, who was criticised by Mancini for his reaction to be substituted during the Bayern game, opened the scoring against Wolves by capitalising on a mistake by goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and he claimed afterwards that he has drawn a line under the events in Munich.
Having made a succession of saves to keep City at bay in the first half, Hennessey gifted Dzeko the opener on 52 minutes, when his delayed clearance rebounded off Sergio Aguero and into the Bosnian forward's path. Hennessey then allowed Aleksandar Kolarov to make it 2-0 when he failed to hold onto Silva's 67th-minute strike.
A successful penalty by Stephen Hunt, awarded after referee Stuart Attwell had dismissed City captain Vincent Kompany for a foul on Ireland striker Kevin Doyle, gave Wolves hope of a fightback, but that was snuffed out by Adam Johnson's 30-yard strike in stoppage time.
With Wolves pressing for an equaliser, Johnson, signed from Middlesbrough in February 2010 for £7m -- change down the back of a sofa by City standards -- produced an almost nonchalant curling shot into the bottom corner from 30 yards.
Arguably as significant was the sight of the England winger winning a challenge in his own penalty area soon afterwards.
Having criticised Johnson for his all-round game last week, Mancini was delighted to see Johnson make his point here and vindicate his own "tough love" approach.
"I'm happy that he is upset," Mancini said. "I'm happy because he can improve. I love Adam. It's like with children, if you love your children then sometimes you should be hard with them.
"If he was not a good player, then I wouldn't waste my time to do this. Because he has everything, I don't want him stopping at this level. I want him to go up a level, then a level more. He could become one of the top wingers."
While City now turn their attentions to Villarreal, next up for Wolves are Wigan -- opponents they should approach with confidence after this display.
Lesser sides might have collapsed after conceding twice early in the second half to a City team who have set a new top-flight scoring record of 36 goals in their opening 10 matches, but Mick McCarthy's men showed the resolve that had snatched a point at home to Swansea City a week ago.
"We played well today, but I'm still disappointed we've come away with nothing," McCarthy said.
"People keep saying we can carry on playing well but we've got to get some points as well." (© Daily Telegraph, London)