In the wake of the victory over Chelsea, City's defence (and Roberto Mancini's effect on it) has been receiving plenty of plaudits after snuffing out Chelsea's potent attacking threat; Nigel de Jong's post-match comments illustrative of this:
“He has come from a country where defence is No 1 and he has brought that mentality from Italy. It took time but the main focus for him is to get the defence right because he knows we have enough quality to score goals — especially at home. That’s what he preaches: make sure we don’t concede.
“It is the mindset of every player. The belief is there. I don’t want to say the belief wasn’t there under Mark Hughes but with the manager coming from Italy defence is No 1. He spends more time on the training pitch with the defenders to get them to realise that a clean sheet is holy."
"Under Mancini, City have conceded 19 goals in 27 PL games and kept 11 clean sheets at an average of 0.70 goals conceded a game."
This stat of course is even better taking 2010/11 in isolation, with just two goals conceded in nine games where a first choice defence was selected; one being a penalty and one the mix-up between Joe Hart and Kolo Toure.
Any foundation for a genuine tilt at the title (or very least a top four spot) is based upon a strong defence; history shows that time and again. Heading into the season, I wrote that whilst there were concerns over the depth in attack (which I still have doubts about) it was the defence that was the most uncertain position as there has long been a lack of consistency.
Here, however, must go a great deal of praise to both Vincent Kompany and Kolo Toure. As a pairing, they were the best pair from a purely statistical perpsective (in terms of average goals conceded per game) but they have stepped this up a level in 2010/11. Playing with a great authority and command, Kompany has been imperious at times, positionally sound and unmoveable as a presence whilst Toure, often criticised, seems to have ironed out issues with his concentration and is showing what a good defender he can be - although it is interesting to note that his more attacking instincts have been curbed by Mancini.
Also impressive though is the manner in which the defence have performed whilst best with injury. Purchased in the summer and pegged as the full-back pairing, Jerome Boateng and Aleksandar Kolarov have played only a handful of minutes between them whilst Joleon Lescott and Wayne Bridge have rarely been fully fit.
Whilst the role of the midfield in being the first buffer in terms of restrcting and denying time and space to create shouldn't (and to be fair hasn't) been ignored, it is pleasing to finally see that the defence is beginning to receive the acclaim it deserves.