MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 11 : Joe Hart and Kolo Toure (L) of Manchester City look dejected after Nikola Kalinic had opened the scoring for Blackburn Rovers during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers at the City of Manchester Stadium on September 11, 2010. Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images.
The form and return from the past two seasons have created an expectancy from games on home turf. And rightly so. Teams that achieve success do so on the back of dominant home form; where points, or rather, victories, are taken for granted and become second nature.
Whilst this is a good thing - and builds up an aura around the side - it does magnify any deviation from this. And certainly a home fixture against Blackburn is one where the return is expected (demanded?) be three points. The fact that is wasn't was due to a combination of not being clinical enough in front of goal and to their credit, some excellent defensive play from Blackburn.
Mancini opted to change things up team wise. Out went Gareth Barry and Nigel de Jong from midfield, with Patrick Vieira and Shaun Wright-Phillips replacing them. James Milner moved into a central three with Wright-Phillips and Adam Johnson wide. The early morning threats of a start for Jo proved unfounded with Carlos Tevez shrugging of injury worries.
Until falling behind, City very much were in control of the game. There have been some accusations levelled at Mancini that the slow start and tempo were to blame for not taking all three points, yet Blackburn did not threaten and it certainly wasn't a sluggish or off-colour start by any means. If it had been 0-0 at the half rather than coming out chasing an equaliser, there is no doubt that all three points would have been won.
The goal that was conceded has to be laid at Hart's door though. Toure was not faultless, but facing the goal with Hart fifteen yards out of his area there were few options available to him. If, as a goalkeeper, you come that far out of your area (or even out of your area at all) it has to be your responsibility, you have to win the ball. The hesitancy on Hart's part was uncharacteristic but I doubt it permetates his game going forward; the smart save he made late on was evidence of that.
Mancini switched things up after the break with Shaun Wright-Phillips replaced by Jo to provide an extra presence in attack. The guile and craft of David Silva was surely a better option though when going up against a side who are packing bodies behind the ball than an extra man 'up top'. His impact - although brief - when he did come on late in the game does suggest this would have been the case.
The second half saw City in control again, but also have more dominance in terms of territory and put tremendous pressure on Blackburn. As this graphic shows, there were fourteen shots on target - surely enough to have garnered at least a second goal. Whilst there were enough chances (and then some) to have won the game, credit should be given to Blackburn. Paul Robinson made a couple of excellent saves, whilst the defence, led by Christopher Samba - evidence of Mark Hughes's great touch at making mid-level signings - was superb. Closing down and denying space in and around the box was paramount in keeping City at bay time and again. Symptomatic of this was his last ditch block to deny Jo with the goal at his mercy.
In terms of points return, five from the first four games is below par on what the expectation was heading into the season - and a solitary point from games at Sunderland and home to Blackburn has brought a frustrating couple of weeks.
There would be more concern however if the side was worryingly lacking cohesion or displaying the defensive liabilities that blighted the games against Hull and Burnley during 2009/10; that said, Mancini more than anyone knows that he can't afford there to be many days like this over the course of the season.