If the draw against Juventus in midweek was somewhat of a comedown following the superb victory and performance over Chelsea, then today was more of the same as opposed to a return to the form shown in the main of late.
Often sluggish, appearing at times rattled and failing to take the occasional opportunities that presented themselves it was a largely disappointing display against a Newcastle side showing the spirit evident for the most part since their return to the Premier League.
Whilst not wholly sitting back and inviting City on, Newcastle did not have the intent or purpose that Chelsea had last week. At times this can make the measured and patient approach Mancini favours look plodding and lacking in spark. Thankfully, even if not by starting him, Mancini is keen to utilise Adam Johnson from the bench and his individuality and ability to conjour chances from any position is unrivalled in the side, possibly even the Premier League.
The game though was overshadowed to some degree of course by the injury to Hatem Ben Arfa following Nigel de Jong's tackle. The unfortunate thing is that came as no great surprise. de Jong, for all his tenacious play and effectiveness in that pivotal role he fulfills, has a recklessness about him. We have seen it on occasion for City (moreso though on the international stage) and on this one it resulted in his trailing leg following through into Ben Arfa. It was a tackle that was there to be made, but executed with a lack of care.
After going ahead shortly after, the game should really have been closed out but less than five minutes or so later Newcastle were back on level terms after the impressive Jonas fired home a rebound from his own shot with Kolo Toure guilty of ball watching.
The midfield area, so often the catalyst this season, was poor. de Jong retreated into his shell (perhaps understandably) following Ben Arfa's injury, whilst Gareth Barry and particular Yaya Toure (after appearing to progress of late) were ineffectual in terms of an attacking presence and James Milner and David Silva failed to pick up the load.
There were opportunities though. Playing with a dangerously high line, Newcastle invited the ball over or through the defence and there were chances but we could not profit from them. Maybe this prompted the decision to introduce Emmanuel Adebayor, but the state of the game cried out for Adam Johnson and of course it was not long after his introduction that he scored his second in consecutive games to win the points - although there was still time to profit from some more fortuitous refereeing with Joleon Lescott fortunate to avoid conceding a penalty late in the game.
That said, we got the win; three points that takes us second in the table. Although aided to some degree by Martin Atkinson, there have been frustrating afternoons over the past couple of seasons (in particular at home) and left bemoaning the ability to finish sides off and take all three points. Credit should therefore be given to the side for being able to craft out a victory when it was not entirely deserved.
That, if nothing else from today, bodes well as we now head into the international break.