WIGAN, ENGLAND - JANUARY 16: Edin Dzeko of Manchester City celebrates with team mate David Silva after scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Wigan Athletic and Manchester City at the DW Stadium on January 16, 2012 in Wigan, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
The heady days of Autumn may have given way to winter, and with it, the cavalier approach from City during the early part of the season appears to have given way to a more functional and pragmatic approach. Less flamboyant, certainly, but even shorn of some of the key cogs in their side City apace in their bid for the title and yesterday's 1-0 win at Wigan saw them reach the 50 point mark after just 21 games; in doing so becoming just the fifth side to achieve such a landmark.
It was certainly a more positive first half from City, but it was a game for the most part was far too flat and resulted in a laboured and at times lethargic display. In many ways it had the feel of a home game; City having the edge in terms of possession and territory with Wigan threatening on the counter attack. Despite Wigan at times providing a spark, their lack of a final ball or clinical edge in the final third was no surprise looking at their record over the season to date. City themselves have not been as proficient in this area of late as they have been earlier in the season but both Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko looked sharp and worked well as a partnership (the one mishap aside). Dzeko's goal was well timed after a recent barren run, showing excellent technique and the hope will be that the goal triggers a run of goals (as has been the case this season) that allows Roberto Mancini to go with the hot hand.
Despite the win there have still been murmurings around performances of late, but take out the twin Cup defeats and City's past six games has seen them take 14 points (four wins, a draw and a defeat) and keep five clean sheets - the solitary goal coming in injury time at Sunderland (and a highly contentious one at that). I wrote recently over at EPL Index with regards to City's defence and what is noticeable is that not only do City possess the bets defensive record in goals allowed, but they are amongst the leaders in terms of shots and chances allowed - a key stat that indicates the system that is being deployed by Mancini and the coaching staff is one that is clearly working and will be the cornerstone in the second half of City's season.
There may be a Yaya Toure shaped hole in City's midfield at the moment and the side is undoubtedly missing the force and drive that he brings to the midfield, yet a plus point from the win was the partnership of Samir Nasri and the returning David Silva. The formation that Mancini adpoted - the duo playing between Nigel de Jong and Gareth Barry and Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko - is one that suits them best, as at times a five man midfield has congested key areas with Nasri the one being squeezed. City may not be able to necessarily replace the undoubted qualities that Yaya Toure brings to the side but Mancini has likely found his best line-up (from the midfield onwards at least) for the next month or so.
Will City go through a game at the moment without a contentious situation involving the awarding (or not as the case may be) of a card? The sending off of Vincent Kompany has undoubtedly magnified the situation, with questions then surrounding the non-card for Glen Johnson in the Carling Cup tie (and subsequent spat between Steven Gerrard and Mancini) and now another situation with Mancini getting plenty of press for the waving of an imaginary card following a contentious handball on the halfway line with views split as to whether he had denied Aguero a golascoring opportunity (I'd err on the side of it not being a goalscoring opportunity given the amount of work Aguero still had to do to fashion himself a chance). Mancini of course was questioned again post match about this and there is a real danger that this is an issue that could run and run. Whilst I don't have any issue with what Mancini is necessarily doing, it does at the very least provide an wanted focus and distraction that he could certainly do without.