Premier League Match Report: Five issues for Roberto Mancini to ponder after Manchester City beat Sunderland
Manchester City 3 Sunderland 0: Emphatic home victory suggests Richards is due an England recall and Balotelli is on his way out
1 A decision needs to be made on Mario Balotelli
Manchester City insist there is no boardroom pressure to sell Balotelli in the January transfer window despite suggestions that chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak is increasingly irritated by the Italian's antics. Stalking down the tunnel after being substituted on Saturday was not one of Balotelli's worst crimes but Roberto Mancini's patience is once more being tested. His triumphs in the European Championship should have acted as a platform for the 22-year-old to push on to greater heights; instead he finds himself City's third- or even fourth-choice striker. Both men flew back to Italy yesterday and you hope they were seated far apart.
2 Micah Richards is a serious contender at centre-half – and not just at the Etihad
Six years ago, Richards became the youngest defender ever to play for England; since then he has been discarded by Fabio Capello and not helped himself by refusing to go on standby for Roy Hodgson at Euro 2012. Nevertheless, after he excelled at centre-half against Sunderland, there are some, including his team-mate Pablo Zabaleta, who believe Richards can fill the hole left by John Terry's retirement.
"He is young, he is strong, he deserves to be in the England squad," said Zabaleta, who himself faces a rather more daunting international fixture than San Marino. Argentina play Uruguay in Buenos Aires.
3 Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero are City's first-choice forwards
Mancini's substitution of Balotelli not only removed an ineffectual forward, it allowed the Argentina combination of Tevez and Aguero to stretch the Sunderland defence past breaking point. Aguero's goal, which effectively settled the contest, was his 17th in 19 games at the Etihad Stadium, while Zabaleta remarked that, perhaps stung by the acrimony that had stained last season, Tevez had been working phenomenally hard.
Tevez is not part of the Argentina squad but when they did perform together, Tevez operated on the left, with Aguero as the striker. Their understanding and speed of thought are likely to be too much for some defences.
4 The Champions League is not everything
The final five minutes at Real Madrid and almost the whole 90 against Borussia Dortmund triggered a bout of intense introspection. It was suggested that, having won the FA Cup and then the Premier League in successive seasons, Mancini should now become entirely focused on delivering the Champions League. However, this should not be at the expense of retaining the league title, something only six managers since the war have done – Sir Matt Busby, Stan Cullis, Bob Paisley, Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho. The sixth is Portsmouth's Bob Jackson.Arsène Wenger's first two Champions League campaigns saw Arsenal fail to qualify from their group. Dortmund did not beat themselves up about finishing last in their group last season. They retained the Bundesliga and came back stronger. The priority is to establish Manchester City domestically.
5 Gareth Barry and James Milner can hold the midfield
The loss of Nigel de Jong was a serious blow, especially when City found themselves outbid for Javi Martinez by Bayern Munich. Javi Garcia is not a bad second choice but the way the two Englishmen held the heart of the City midfield together on Saturday was encouraging.
Barry, 31, was not part of Hodgson's plans for this month's internationals after a groin injury kept him out of Euro 2012. "I have spoken to the manager, Roy Hodgson, and I understand why I am not in the team," Barry said. "My season hasn't really got going and I am still getting over the injury. But I am not ready to retire yet."
Man City: HART 6/10; ZABALETA 7; RICHARDS 8; LESCOTT 7; KOLAROV 8; MILNER 7; BARRY 7; SILVA 6, Y TOURE 7; BALOTELLI 4; TEVEZ 7
Sunderland: MIGNOLET 6; ROSE 5; CUELLAR 5; O’SHEA 6; GARDNER 6; McCLEAN 5; COLBACK 6; LARSSON 5; A JOHNSON 5; SESSEGNON 6; FLETCHER 6
Goals: Manchester City Kolarov 5, Aguero 60, Milner 89. Subs: Manchester City Aguero 7 (Balotelli, 56), Clichy (Tevez, 86), Rodwell (Silva, 90). Sunderland Vaughan 5 (Rose, 61), Saha 5 (Johnson, 68), Campbell (Sessegnon, 83). Booked: Sunderland Cuellar, Colback, Gardner.
Man of match Kolarov. Match rating 6/10.
Possession: Man City 60%. Sunderland 40%.
Attempts on target: Man City 9. Sunderland 4.
Referee Lee Probert (Wiltshire). Att 47,036.
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