The quarter point mark of the season

The general concensus is that ten games into the Premier League season marks the quarter point mark of the campaign. Despite the positive start to the season this particular juncture was arrived at with the sheen very much taken off the ahcievements to date with two successive defeats (the latter with a worrying lack of leadership and desire), the furore over players drinkingteam in-fighting and an injured captain back in Argentina hanging over the club.

Looking at the table however, it shows the side is current handily positioned in fourth place - surely the objective for the season - but with a definite sense of it being a missed opportunity as the two defeats in the past week has been compounded by back to back victories for our nearest rivals, seeing us fall from the coat tails of Chelsea but also slip behind both Arsenal and United.

Much has also been made of the fact that in comparison, the points total at the ten game mark is lower this season than in both 2009/10 and 2007/08. However, what hasn't generally been stated is the way sides have previously fallen away; it was the fixtures (careless draws where leads were thrown away) following the first ten games that ultimately did for Mark Hughes. So whilst the points tally may be lower at this stage than on previous occasions can it really be argued that the side is less well positioned given the squad is undoubtedly stronger? 

For the most part, the season to date has been a success. The bedrock of the side has been a dominant central defensive partnership and a suffocating midifeld trio expert in ball retention. It is no surprise when these traits have been missing, the side looks a far less solid proposition.

Granted that the performance at Wolves was as poor as we have seen for some time, but the reaction has been far more intense and widespread than anticipated (or deserved to be) and is a sign that the bar has been raised even further following the summer spending to a point where a trophy and/or Champions League qualification this season is not merely expected, but demanded.

Following the Wolves defeat, the focus of the media at large has swung towards the club which much of the tone calling Mancini's future into question, with speculation of his sacking and having 'lost' the dressing room making headlines and leader columns alike.

Reading back over what I've written during the course of this season, much of it has centred on the unity and togetherness the side has shown and how the players appear to have bought into the methods and approach that Mancini has demanded of them. It is easy to forget that two games ago the club were comfortably in second place and City were the fashionable tip for a shot at the title.

Therefore it is so strange to see so much reported disharmony and could the side have realistically climbed to second in the table, turning in the type of performances that did for Chelsea if squad harmony was so fractious? Should there actually be rumblings of discontent from within the dressing room - either towards the manager or each other - then the one thing that is guaranteed to quell this is what the side have been doing for the majority of the season: winning.

There isn't a great deal that Roberto Mancini has got wrong so far this season in the league. His substitutions at Wolves were surprising, but his 'in-game' management is by and large sound. Selection wise, he has also been good, with only really Adam Johnson's exclusion a major talking point. Some of the big decisions, like opting for Joe Hart over Shay Given, have proved successful and his rotation of the side in the Europa League has also paid dividends with the side well set for qualification.

There have been calls for 4-4-2, but the occasions in which it has been adopted have shown the side is far better set-up with a 4-5-1, certainly when Carlos Tevez is available and showing the form he has. The side have been hampered with injury too. New signings Jerome Boateng and Mario Balotelli have only just become available, whilst Aleksandar Kolarov remains on the sidelines.

Taking a positive from the Wolves defeat is that any hint of complacency in the side will have been extinguished. The approach will very much be go back to basics and if anything, the negative focus could foster the type of 'siege mentality' that many top sides have thrived on previously. 

It did highlight potential concerns though. The lack of leadership being the most obvious area as with big personalities (and pay cheques) in the side you hope this not to be something lacking, but taken in the context of the season as a whole so far, it was a performance very much in isolation and the start to the season has overwhelmingly been positive.

Something that seems to have been forgotten in the fall out that has followed the loss at Molineux.

Statistics at the quarter point:

Goals scored - 13 (ave 1.3)

First half 4, second half 9

Goals against - 10 (ave 1.0)

First half 4, second half 6

Leading goalscorers

Tevez 7, Adebayor, Silva, Yaya Toure, Johnson and Vieira one goal each

Defensive partnerships

Toure/Kompany GP 8 GA 5, Lescott GP 1 GA 2, Boyata/Kompany GP 1 GA -3

Plus/minus*

Tevez +6, Johnson, Kolo Toure and Lescott all +5

Adebayor -3, Boateng, Balotelli and Boyata all -2

* Plus/minus is a statistic used in ice-hockey to denote the goals, either plus or minus, that the player has been on the pitch for: ie, +1 where the team scores and -1 where the team concedes. It is better served relating to ice hockey where there are rolling lines of players who take the ice in shifts at different periods within the game, but I thought it interesting to take a look at how relevant it may be.

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