There is no mistaking the man with the most at Manchester City. The statistics distributed before this game revealed that Carlos Tevez was the individual with the most shots on target (28), off target (17), assists (4), offsides (15) and fouls (22) for his club. It is a statement of the obvious that his 10th league goal on Saturday extends his role as lead scorer.
But any successful relationship between club and player must be an interdependent one. City need Tevez so much that he can behave how the mood takes him, which is why he will escape with the extraordinary display of petulance which followed his 90th minute substitution on Saturday. The club captain was as much an embarrassment to himself as a humiliation to Roberto Mancini, his manager, who tried to dispel his abuse with an embrace, was shrugged off and in the end just pushed him away towards the dug-out.
City's attempts to smooth over this latest ruckus are helped by an interview the player has given to the club's in-house magazine, published tomorrow, in which Tevez proclaims that "of course I get on well with Roberto and I back him 100 per cent." The striker insists he and Mancini "discuss lots of things both in public and in private; we are both passionate football people" and, ironically, acknowledges the unjustified abuse his manager took from supporters for substituting him two weeks ago when simply trying to protect him from a niggling injury.
Mancini so resolutely maintains the line that the Argentine's behaviour constitutes professionalism – "I'm happy and I prefer this situation when important players don't want to leave the pitch. It was my decision because I needed to leave a tall player like Mario [Balotelli] on the pitch" – that you can only marvel at his fortitude. But the tweet Bolton's Kevin Davies sent while watching Match of the Day on Saturday offered a telling perspective from within the game. "Seeing Tevez reaction to being subbed assures me there is [sic] problems within at City – great players individually but as a team?" he said.
Tevez wouldn't get away with this behaviour under Sir Alex Ferguson's management. He was agitated virtually from the moment he had rolled home the fourth minute goal which owed everything to Yaya Touré, operating powerfully in the more advanced role Mancini has found for him, forging through the midfield to deliver the critical pass through Gary Cahill's legs. The fifth yellow card which sees Tevez miss next Saturday's visit to West Ham was his second of the season for dissent which, put with the booking for a goal celebration at Blackpool, makes this one-game ban a needless one. "He must pay attention to this situation or we will be without him a lot of times," the manager said. "One time is okay."
At Upton Park, Mancini will look to Balotelli, who judging by his refusal to rise to Zat Knight's needle, is heeding the manager's plea for presence of mind. Mancini agreed the 20-year-old was a more natural finisher than Tevez and the biggest favour Balotelli can do him is to end the dependency culture with goals of his own.
Some perspective is required. City, whose players' fancy dress Christmas party minus the manager on Saturday night passed off with nothing more eye-catching than Adam Johnson and Joe Hart's polka dot trousers, are just a point behind Chelsea now and displayed an impressive attacking intent. With Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea playing each other this month, City could ascend higher. Only profligacy deprived them a comfortable win. "I could have scored two goals out there myself," Mancini said.
Owen Coyle's side were at times guilty of throwing off the old Bolton stereotype too much. There were insufficient balls into the area for Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander to latch onto. "I don't know about [a top six or eight finish] but I do believe in my players," Coyle said. "Our strength will be our group, our togetherness and unity."
What wouldn't Mancini give for the same. He didn't know if Joleon Lescott's thoughts of a January loan move would be heeded but insisted Jerome Boateng had been left out of the squad to recover from injury rather than Friday's training ground fight with Balotelli.