BOLTON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 21: James Milner of Manchester City competes with Nigel Reo-Coker of Bolton Wanderers during the Barclays Premier League match between Bolton Wanderers and Manchester City at the Reebok Stadium on August 21, 2011 in Bolton, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
James Milner's coming out party? With Nigel de Jong out injured, Yaya Toure dropped into a withdrawn role with saw James Milner come into the side as the more advanced of the midfield trio. Whilst not as far forward as Toure was against Swansea, he was still a commanding presence across the midfield area and a constant presence the Bolton defence had to cope with and fhe following two Guardian Chalkboards show his heatmap in comparison to Toure and also where his passes were attempted illustrate this perfectly. His stats too were good: Shots 3, Passing 53/63 (84%), Crosses 2/9, Assists 2, Chances 2, Tackles 2, Possession duels 7/9, Aerial duels 2/2, Interceptions 1 - all highlighting his all-round contribution (as he displayed for Aston Villa during 2009/10. His best performance in a City shirt?
Goals. Roberto Mancini stated he wants 10-15 more than last season to have a shot at the title (meaning an average of two goals per game) and the way the side has started shows they are capable of doing just this. What this attacking threat will also do is lessen the chance of sides frustrating City in the way we saw on occasion last year when the side struggled to break down determined opposition. But does this come at a price? Mancini said post-match: "We need to pay more attention. We need to score 15 goals more than we did last year [over the course of the season] but we cannot concede more than we did last year" and for all the attacking verve and potency the side looks to have it is imperative that they do not lose sight of what the success of last season was built upon.
Although victory was attained, it should have been more comfortable than it ultimately was and how big a part did the absence of Nigel de Jong play? Whilst you can't pin either of the goals conceded on him not being out there but the presence and authority he bestows and the balance he brings to the side, whilst not easily measured in terms of statistics is evident all the same when he is not in the line-up. I posted this quick Fan Shot during last season to evidence the record with and without him in the side and the difference was stark. Mancini is keen to add bodies to the squad, but is anyone as difficult to replace as de Jong?
What next for Carlos Tevez? His handful of minutes at the end of the game yesterday illustrated that despite a natural effervescence to his play, he is some way off being fully fit. The clock is ticking down on his chances of hot footing out of Manchester and if the deadline passes and he remains at the club, whilst an undoubted asset quite where does he fit in? The trio of Dzeko, David Silva and Sergio Aguero have made a promising start, linking well and feeding off each other superbly to register six of the seven goals so far. In many ways last season saw the side built around Tevez - at least in terms of style, but this season it is a more expansive and team orientated approach - something that we have not seen work to great effect with him in the side. An interesting one for Mancini to ponder over.
Has Edin Dzeko firmly settled at the club? I wrote at the time of his signing last January that I thought bringing him in at that time was not a wise move given the adjustment period to the Premier League and the way in which the side would have to adjust to Dzeko too. Far better to bring a player in during the summer and have a full pre-season with the side to acclimate. The first two games have shown a wholly different player and one who is playing the confidence that goals bring. Ian Ladyman has a nice piece on Dzeko today in The Mail that shows that even over the course of two games in 2011/12 he has already ahead of his performances in 2010/11. There is more on Dzeko's early season form on the blog in this post too.