HomeOTHEREPLCity v Villa: Match analysis

City v Villa: Match analysis

The outcome of Manchester City’s fixture against Aston Villa at The Etihad Stadium may have been a familiar one based on the 2011/12 season so far: City posting an emphatic victory, racking up a plethora of goals and with a number of different names getting on the score-sheet.

Saturday’s victory though was not typical of City’s performances to date. Roberto Mancini decided – based on the recent International fixtures and forthcoming games against Villarreal and Manchester United – to make a number of changes; out went Davild Silva, Samir Nasri and Edin Dzeko, and with Sergio Aguero unfit City were shorn of the creative elements that have lit up games so far.

Assuming the responsibility from an attacking sense were Adam Johnson, James Milner and Yaya Toure, pushed further forward in support of the in-form Mario Balotelli (and reprising his role from the final stages of 2010/11). Whilst there was no drop-off in terms of points, or indeed goals, it was a performance not necessarily one of style but it was certainly one of substance; clinical and with a ruthless efficiency permeating through it.

This was shown in the numbers from an offensive standpoint where City’s totals were some way below the season average to date:

Despite their fast start which has seen them move clear at the top of the Premier League table City will continue to face questions throughout the season as they look to sustain a challenge towards what would be their first Premier League title. Saturday provided evidence of their strength within the squad, but also showed that even without some of the more creative and attacking elements missing there was no drop off in terms of efficiency and execution – positive signs for Mancini in terms of assessing the mentality of his squad.

Perhaps the biggest boost for Mancini from Saturday though was the return to the starting line-up of Nigel de Jong. The Dutchman, such a vital component of the side in 2010/11 had missed half a dozen or so games through injury but after coming on as a substitute in the ‘Tevez-gate’ game in Munich, he seamlessly fit back into the side

De Jong’s importance from a defensive standpoint is unquestioned. What him being in the side does do for Mancini is allow him that bit extra flexibility in terms of selection from an attacking standpoint (i.e. less need for two ‘defensive’ midfielders in that area) as de Jong is not only so instrumental in stopping the opposition but also in being the launchpad for so much of what City do from an attacking sense.

It is an often-used cliché to state that getting to the top of the table is the easy part, with the hardest part staying there. City’s next game? Away to Manchester United. If, at the conclusion of next weekend’s games City are still in pole position, they will have taken another step towards their ambitions as the Premier League hits the quarter point of the 2011/2012 season.

Managing Editor of SBNation's Manchester City blog 'Bitter and Blue' and author of 'Man City 365'.
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