MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: Mario Balotelli of Manchester City scores to make it 1-0 during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium on October 15, 2011 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Less dynamic and less flashy than we have seen for the most part this season, but the end result continued the theme of the season so far. Roberto Mancini left David Silva, Samir Nasri and Edin Dzeko on the bench whilst Sergio Aguero missed out entirely through injury but after a slow start to proceedings it was a very effective performance. The style provide by Silva et al was missing but it was a performance with plenty of focus, drive and determination and was too much for Villa to handle. Proof enough of the strength in depth Mancini has at his disposal.
Without a history or body of evidence in challenging for Premier League titles, there will be questions throughout the season posed about City's mentality and psychology in being able to consistently sustain a challenge. Villa's record at home meant this was potentially a tricky fixture with City also knowing that United had dropped points and that a win would see them strike out at the top of the table. Added to this was the knowledge of what lay ahead this week: a vital game at home to Villarreal to get their Champions League campaign back on track ahead of the derby next Saturday. Early nerves aside, City answered all of the questions posed of them.
With the attacking trio of Silva, Nasri and Aguero missing much was dependent on James Milner, Yaya Toure and Adam Johnson to step up in their absence and as a whole they delivered. Toure, operating in a more advanced position (one I feel suits his game far better) linked up with the excellent Mario Balotelli, occupying defenders and eating up space in the final third. Milner took on a role in central midfield and with time on the ball and space available is a viable attacking threat and the fourth goal - in which he both started and finished - really was something. Johnson's game was a tricky one to assess; yes he provided a couple of assists and played a role in the attack but his play lacked the drive and penetration he is capable of. You do feel that this is the type of game, rather than key Premier League or Champions League ones, that he will primarily feature in.
Whilst it didn't prove vital, the defence - particularly Joleon Lescott - looked shaky at times early in the game and it was a surprise Villa didn't seek to exploit this the way the game started. Lescott was beaten a couple of times (one at 0-0 when Joe Hart had to pull off a smart save) and despite the proficiency in front of goal, at the back in the central area does lack the steel of last season.
With having scored 27 times in eight games so far in 2010/11 (a Premier League record), City have obviously been clinical in front of goal. This was the case even moreso today with four goals scored with much less chances created and shots attempted than City average to date. Today, City had 12 shots in total (eight on target) and created just eight chances (defined by Opta as key passes plus assists) - half the number they have been posting (totals of 152 and 122 respectively). Particularly in the second half, City had that feel to them that every attack they launched could end up as a goal.