Hart: City missed big chance
Joe Hart has admitted Manchester City missed a major opportunity to stamp their mark on the Barclays Premier League last night.
Although they would have played two more matches than Manchester United, victory over Everton would have seen the Blues top on Christmas Day for the first time since 1929.
More importantly, it would have sent out a significant statement of intent ahead of a transfer window when they are the only ones seemingly capable of making any significant impact.
The arrival of Edin Dzeko from Wolfsburg as a direct replacement for Emmanuel Adebayor is still anticipated.
But the chances are, Dzeko will join a club with some catching up to do if they are to confirm their status as serious championship contenders after a 2-1 defeat that was instigated by some uncharacteristic defensive flaws.
"It is a big opportunity missed because we could have been sat at the top of the table now," Hart told www.mcfc.co.uk.
"But we need to dust ourselves down and pick ourselves up because we are all obviously gutted to have lost this game."
So gutted in fact that manager Roberto Mancini declared the only bit of good news to emerge last night was Carlos Tevez withdrawing his transfer request.
The possibility of Tevez remaining at Eastlands beyond the summer is open to extreme doubt given neither Mancini nor sources close to the player wished to elaborate beyond the statement that was released prior to kick-off.
Self-evidently though, Mancini must be concerned about what happens to his team when City's 10-goal leading scorer is having a rare off day, as was the case yesterday.
Mario Balotelli's contribution was fitful to say the least, while Adam Johnson did little following his introduction as a half-time substitute to convince anyone he is worthy of a regular starting slot.
So, once he had got a debatable grumble about City not getting a couple of penalties out of the way, Mancini made a salient point that his side will need to take note of.
"Everton defended with all their players behind the ball and defended very well," he said.
"But this is normal. It is difficult for any team to come here and play."
The point being that other than their rivals, who can match City both in resource and talent, few are going to play to their strengths by committing to an open game.
Everton did not have to try once they had established a two-goal cushion and both Birmingham and Blackburn left Eastlands with a point after using the same smothering tactics David Moyes' men were relying on.
It means City will have to use greater guile to unlock their opponents, particularly as, other than Tottenham, all their top-four rivals have already travelled to the north-west.
Aston Villa and Blackpool are the festive visitors, although their next task is to overcome Newcastle at St James' Park on Boxing Day.
"The games are going to come thick and fast in the next 10 days, so we can't dwell on this result for too long," said Hart.
"We need to go to Newcastle and get three points and then look to beat Aston Villa and Blackpool. If we do that, we won't be far off the top and we can go into the new year with our tails up."