MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Aleksandar Kolarov of Manchester City scores the second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Etihad Stadium on October 29, 2011 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
With the heights that City have reached this season there is the danger that expectations become similarly raised. Perhaps this is an inevitable byproduct of having swept aside the majority of sides they have faced so far during 2011/12 and when things don't go according to the script eyebrows are raised. The first half in particular was one of frustration with the side looking ponderous and displaying a lack of fluency in the final third, something of a surprise given the forward line was the same one that carved through Tottenham back in August. There was no doubt some frustration at half-time with the game scoreless, but as I noted on Twitter, the previous three games that were goalless at the half all ended in City wins, with ten goals scored in the process and in taking the lead so early into the second half the confidence and fluidity returned to the side.
There were some interesting numbers that came out of the game and illustrated that as much as any deficiency in City's play, it was Wolves who more than held their own and City's usual dominance in midfield was checked by Wolves, and in particular Jamie O'Hara. Credence should be given to the following categories: Touches (626-617), Passing (360/445-366/445) and Pass % (81%-82%); the closest in certain key categories that City have returned this season. A key stat though showed that although the Attacking half passes were similar (199/286-175/252) City were far more prolific in the final third (104/158-55/92), showing that although Wolves matched City in the middle ground City had the edge further up the field and as a result, were able to create the opportunities they ultimately converted.
It would have no doubt frustrated Roberto Mancini to again concede a sloppy goal when having what appeared a comfortable lead. What will have been of most concern was that it was an error from Joe Hart that led to the conceding of the penalty - and of course the red card for Vincent Kompany. It is interesting that given the margin of victories this season the role of Hart isn't one that has been focussed on. What was noticeable though was that it was Hart parrying a shot from distance back into play - as opposed to away from goal - that provided Wolves the further opportunity. We have seen in the Champions League this season that City have been punished in similar circumstances (both at home to Villarreal and away to Bayern Munich). Something for Hart to work on then.
A blow to City now will be the loss of Vincent Kompany for the trip to QPR next Saturday. Following the Wolves game last midweek I wrote that the central defensive area was the one where we had the least cover in and that should Vincent Kompany in particular be out for a prolonged period it could be costly to the side. Although Kompany is out for just one game this will be a big hole to fill. With Kolo Toure's struggles this season, the likely candidate to come in will be Stefan Savic.
As key a result as this ended up being (to maintain the five point lead over United), with Chelsea's defeat to Arsenal it now means City are nine points clear of Chelsea in third place. Early days of course, but a significant cushion nonetheless. As an aside to this, City's start of taking 28 points (nine wins and a draw) from the opening ten games is the best start to a season since Chelsea posted the same total back in 2005/06:
- 10/11 - Chelsea 25pts
- 09/10 - Chelsea 24pts
- 08/09 - Liverpool 26pts
- 07/08 - Arsenal 26pts
- 06/07 - United 25pts
- 05/06 - Chelsea 28pts