Top of the tree? If City beat Everton on Monday night, they'll lead at Christmas

By Ian Ladyman for the Daily Mail

Carlos Tevez's decision to hand in a transfer request at Manchester City could not have come at a more peculiar time. Exactly a year since the sacking of Mark Hughes, current City manager Roberto Mancini has finally managed to bring some consistency to his team's performances.

Victory against Everton at Eastlands on Monday night will see City top of the pile at Christmas for the first time since 1929.

Sitting pretty: City will go top of the table if they beat struggling Everton on Monday night

Sitting pretty: City will go top of the table if they beat struggling Everton on Monday night

Despite this, Tevez and his team of advisors have said the 26-year-old wants to leave the club because of a perceived 'lack of ambition' and because of unspecified 'broken promises'.

Today Sportsmail's Northern Football Correspondent Ian Ladyman looks at the key players in this saga and assesses their performance over the last 12 months.

ROBERTO MANCINI

Getting the message across: City  players are starting to understand the Mancini way

Getting the message across: City players are starting to understand the Mancini way

It is certainly ironic that the biggest test of the City manager's people skills should come at a time when many of his players are finally beginning to understand - and appreciate - how he works.

By way of return, Mancini has learned to be a little more flexible. One of his greatest risks since being introduced to his players a year ago today was to presume that the cold, calculating style that worked in Italy would transfer itself to an English football culture that requires players to feel a little love from time to time.

Mancini remains largely aloof. He sees a training ground as a place of work. However, he has been pragmatically flexible in terms of his treatment of Tevez and has allowed him time off to travel home to see his daughters in Argentina on a couple of occasions.

Despite the reservations of City fans when he was appointed in the summer, Mancini's assistant David Platt has been instrumental in the Italian allowing his softer side to show through occasionally. For example, Platt and Mancini allowed the first-team squad to have input in their training schedule following the win at West Ham two weeks ago. It is little things like this that are beginning to make the difference at the club.

GARRY COOK

The City chief executive looked as though his time in football might be up a year ago today. His handling of Hughes' sacking - for which he was partly responsible - was dreadful and his subsequent performance at Mancini's introductory press conference was lamentable. He was lampooned for days, and rightly so.

Since then, however, the former Nike man's stock has risen slowly. Finally Cook has shed some of the naivety that characterised his early days and has realised that, sometimes in football, it's better to say nothing at all rather than say the wrong thing.

How they stand: City can go top


His behaviour since news of Tevez's transfer request broke has been beyond reproach. City did their talking with a statement the morning that the news leaked and have sensibly let Mancini dictate the level and strength of their public utterances since.

Cook appeared in sanguine mood at the Europa League match against Juventus in Turin last week and seems to enjoy a close relationship with his manager. Cook will never be the most popular man in football.

His first year or so at City made sure of that. However, if City find themselves top of the Premier League on Christmas Day then it would be churlish and wrong not to allow him a portion of the credit.

CARLOS TEVEZ

The South American's record on the field at City speaks for itself. Ahead of tonight's game he has scored 39 goals for the club in a season-and-a-half. By anyone's standards his has been a remarkable contribution.

Without him City would have come nowhere near the Champions League places last season and would not be second in the Premier League this morning. For all City's improvement, they have looked at times as though they would have been lost without Tevez.

Hitting out: Tevez handed in a transfer request shortly after this touchline bust-up with Mancini

Hitting out: Tevez handed in a transfer request shortly after this touchline bust-up with Mancini

His approach is whole-hearted, unstinting and energetic. While he has never been a great trainer, he has rarely given Mancini a problem with his behaviour on the training pitches.

Away from the field, however, Tevez has been less than impressive. His bust-ups with Mancini have not reflected well on him and have given credence to malicious suggestions that he feels he is the most important person at Eastlands.

The fact that he asked to leave last summer would also suggest that commitment is not something that comes naturally to a player who is yet to stay longer than two seasons at any club since leaving Boca Juniors in 2005 aged 20.

If Tevez does feel so unhappy in England that he wishes to leave City perhaps he should do one thing to make sure he can go with dignity. Perhaps he should stay throughout the transfer window, help City have a tilt at the title, then head off in the summer. He would also help himself if he stopped saying he is tired of football. That in itself is becoming tiresome.

THE CITY SQUAD

Mancini 's players are an odd bunch. Rarely have so many argued so often about so little. Some dismiss the bust-ups that have found their way into the newspapers, claiming these things 'happen at every club'. They do… but nowhere near as often.

The odd bunch: Tevez and co are put through their paces at City's Carrington Training Ground

The odd bunch: Tevez and co are put through their paces at City's Carrington Training Ground

Mancini's squad fall into three categories. Those there before the takeover (Hart, Richards etc), those bought by Hughes (Lescott, Bridge, Given, Tevez etc) and those brought in by Mancini (YaYa Toure, Silva, Milner, Balotelli etc).

That mix can be trouble at a club where the disparity in earnings is enormous. But City have started to gel. Under Hughes away wins and clean sheets were rare. This season, they have shut out Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs and Manchester United and won at Blackpool, West Bromwich, Fulham and West Ham. When they haven't been fighting the City players have been listening.

THE FANS

THE majority of City supporters are admirably loyal and knowledgeable. Given that their club have asked so much of them and returned so little for 34 years, it's remarkable that they have kept turning up at all. Others, however, can be impatient.

Away from home Mancini and his players receive vocal and appreciative support. At Eastlands, however, there can be negativity and at times it's hard to work out if Mancini is the messiah or a muppet in the eyes of the locals.

Many fans also rail at what they see as negative media coverage of City. A quick search of fans' websites will turn up accusations of anti-City media agendas. The truth is more simple. City were never good enough to make the news before. Now they are and, as such, their followers must learn, as other big clubs have, to take the rough with the smooth. If they don't, they will just spend more time than is good for them feeling cross.


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