MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 03: Sergio Aguero of Manchester City celebrates scoring the first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Norwich City at Etihad Stadium on December 3, 2011 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
The game followed a pattern of play that is becoming increasingly familiar at The Etihad Stadium: away side defends in numbers in an attempt to frustrate City, but ultimately with the multitude of options City have from an attacking perspective they are able to get themselves ahead before ruthlessly closing games out. Norwich's defensive approach was even more noticeable by how deep in terms of position and numbers they defended in and early this did crowd City. The vast majority of the play was in Norwich's defensive third with City enjoying 78% of possession in the first half and it was noticeable that City remained patient, didn't try to force the play when confronted with this. They eventually got their reward with some smart play from Sergio Aguero and after extending the lead so early after half time the game was as good as won.
There had been a greater expectation from a Norwich side who have started the season relatively well. Although not winning against a top half side heading into the game (one draw and four defeats) they are sitting in mid table and have earned a reputation for some expansive play. They appeared content though to sit back and hope to catch City with speculative breaks but City's ability to retain and recycle possession doesn't provide many opportunities for this (self inflicted ones aside) and this is reflected in some of the numbers: Yaya Toure completing 118 passes, David Silva completing 48 passes in the final third and City as a team completing 241 passes in the final third - all Premier League highs over the past two seasons.
I wrote earlier of the patience shown by City in the first half and this may be in part because of the confidence they have in their ability to score in the second half. Last season we saw examples of City coming away from frustrated (the nadir being the goalless draw at home to Birmingham) but this season has seen the side dominate in the second half, display a clinical nature and ruthless streak even with the game seemingly won. With four more goals in the second half today, City now total 35 goals for the season in the second half of games (with 13 scored before the break). To put this into even greater context, this total is more than the rest of the Premier League sides have managed in total.
The most notable selection decision was the return of Kolo Toure. Since returning from his ban, he hasn't enjoyed the greatest of times having struggled to dislodge Joleon Lescott, even appearing to slip behind Stefan Savic in the pecking order and struggling when called upon in Munich. A good performance in the Carling Cup in midweek though may have persuaded Roberto Mancini to bring him back into the side (note: there is no word so far as to the reason for his selection today) in an attempt to stem the flow of goals that have been conceded (with just one clean sheet in ten games). There were a couple of early nervy moments between him and Vincent Kompany (possibly as a result of the switch to Kompany on the left side) but the pair grew in confidence as the game went on. The disappointment though was that the side still conceded another late goal, clearly irking both Joe Hart and Mancini.
Another player who has struggled this season at time is Samir Nasri. To date, he has struggled to get his City career going, often unable to make a significant impact and remaining very much in the shadow of David Silva. Last week at Anfield in particular so him crowded for space but today with Mancini deploying Edin Dzeko instead of James Milner this freed the midfield area up far more and Nasri profited. It was possibly his best and most sustained performance since joining and may be the catalyst to really kick-start his time at the club.