There is no rational justification from a personnel, tactical, strategic and any other perspective that you care to find for Stephen Ireland to be on the bench. None! Zero, zip and nada.
Ireland was comfortably one of the best five players in the entire Premier League last year and given that the superb reinforcements that have been brought in over the summer are all from the Premier League there isn't any reason why Ireland sits.
This is especially true when the starting line up against Wigan revealed that, oh dear, Micah Richards was starting at central defender.
This is what bugs me about Mark Hughes. He never ever learns. The definition of insanity, so it is said, is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
The Micah Richards Richard Dunne pairing under Sven worked specifically because City were playing a 4-2-3-1 with Hamann sitting in front of the back four and City effectively playing 5 in midfield on defense. This helped protect the inexperienced positioning of Richards because it was so difficult to got through to him.
Last year proved conclusively that if you play a 4-4-2 with Richards in the back City will be on the receiving end. And so not surprisingly City didn't win. Richards is a good player, but he is not a centre back and you'll recall I was agitating for an additional central defender signing specifically because the team was lacking in numbers in this position.
If Richards was the choice, because Toure and Onuoha were injured and Kompany was by implication not back to full fitness - hence his position on the bench - then City should have played a 4-2-3-1 with Petrov and Ireland on the outside wings, Adebayor, yes Adebayor, as the Attacking Midfielder and Tevez up top. Barry and Johnson should have been the midfield pairing. Or if you want to be creative, put SWP on the wing and Ireland on in place of Johnson.
What you don't do is play a 4-4-2 and expose Richards.
As such a point is very much a point earned rather than two points lost because as soon as I saw the team sheet I was convinced that all chance of victory had gone out the window.
I know and appreciate the push back is "but we are up to fifth and challenging the big four." Nor am I under the mistaken belief that this squad is good enough to win the Premier League this year. We are seeing the benefits of no European ties already.
But what I get so frustrated over is that the team and its results are at 80% of capacity rather than say the 100% the club would be under a Mourinho. Hughes has built a fine squad in a short amount of time, results are generally good but you just get the feeling he was always the kid at school who got the expected marks with a notation... "Could do better."