Missed chances continue to haunt Manchester City despite new additions
As has been Manchester City's modus operandi for more years than most supporters care to remember, the start to the season has provided more questions than answers, as City ran down some eerily familiar dead-ends against a wily Everton side on Monday night.
Firstly, given that much of the match had been spent attempting to get back into a game with a man less, the final score could have been a lot worse. Whether it was full recompense for the sweat spilt or not is another matter. City, it is already clear, despite the raft of new signings, are still making some of the same errors that littered last season.
The most glaring of these is the failure to shoot when the chance presents itself and the failure to score when the chances mount to double figures. Although the urgency in front of goal increased markedly on the arrival of substitutes Raheem Sterling, Danilo and Bernardo Silva, some of the damage had already been inflicted.
Self-inflicted, that is.
The main culprit was once again Sergio Aguero. Fed time and again by David Silva's brilliant manoeuvring in tight spaces, the Argentinean seemed intent on taking more touches than he appeared to need. With Phil Jagielka not leaving him any space in which to operate, when an opportunity did present itself, time was of the essence.
City's attack again seemed ill at ease with Aguero paired with Gabriel Jesus. Jesus has flattered to deceive in the first two games, missing presentable chances, and the attack looked infinitely more mobile and threatening with Jesus removed and City's attacking suddenly coming in from all directions.
Sterling, down both flanks and through the middle, was excellent, dragging City out of trouble with a beautifully struck volley to make it 1-1, while Danilo brought fresh impetus to the right flank after Kyle Walker's comical dismissal.
City's third substitute may in time prove to be the best of the lot. Bernardo Silva's control in tight spaces has already been noted in a fast-moving career that has taken in Benfica and Monaco and his appearance in this game brought immediate danger to Everton's massed defensive ranks.
With both Silvas able to dig out killer passes through packed lines of defenders, City will always stand a chance of salvation, as eventually happened here. There was still time to win the game, however, despite having chased Everton with a man less for 50 punishing minutes. It was the 92nd minute when one Silva served the other and almost won the game for City. Bernardo's delicately chipped through ball was floating unerringly towards David Silva's forehead, when the very toe-end of Davy Klaasen's boot diverted the ball from its course.
Pep Guardiola must ask himself some searching questions before the season moves out of its initial phase of shuffling and positioning:
What does he do about Leroy Sane, whose sloppy defensive pass led directly to Everton's opener? Also, can he find a spot for Sterling? Neither can play wing-back and you get the feeling that when Guardiola has Walker and Benjamin Mendy at his disposal, the best both can hope for is a role as an impact substitute. Sane in particular is a peculiar mixture of potential dynamite going forward, but a danger to everyone in his own half.
Much has been written about Guardiola's need for specialists in the wing-back positions. Now that he has them, can he afford to leave them out much more on this evidence? Even Danilo, who is likely to find his appearances limited by the return to fitness of Mendy, brought immediate sunlight to the right flank when he came on.
Guardiola needs to find a place for Mendy and Bernardo Silva, meaning Sane and Danilo are likely to be the early casualties as the Catalan edges his preferred pieces into place.
Another question mark hovers over City's ability to mix things in midfield. For decades English football's serial winners relied on the grit and power of the likes of Graeme Souness, Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane. These players virtually ran the game themselves, regardless of what the opposition could line up in its defence.
These days, allied to this kind of game management, is the need for a master of the game's dark arts: cajoling match officials into seeing your point of view, as Wayne Rooney did from the very first incident for Everton, cowing the opposition's main men into passive performances, getting and keeping the ball by foul means or fair. City lack any kind of player, who can deliver this package of attributes. Could/should Vincent Kompany be doing it, as captain, strong man and club stalwart?
Like the rest of the squad, Kompany is too nice. What Chelsea have in spades, what the serial winners from Manchester United and Arsenal had in earlier times, is only conspicuous by its absence at the Etihad.
As City embark on a season that will make or break the reputation of their stellar cast, the questions just keep coming.
Simon is one of ESPN FC's Manchester City bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @bifana_bifana.