A point gained or two points dropped?
There has been plenty of talk in the wake of Saturday's draw at Stoke: that letting two points slip was disappointing yet a point was a good return with all things considered.
The feeling of frustration at dropping two points is compounded however with results elsewhere at the weekend. United and Arsenal both increasing their lead, whilst it was a missed opportunity to make up further ground on Chelsea. Of most concern perhaps though was that Tottenham's late win saw them chisel away at the cushion we have over the group chasing fourth spot. It appears as though the battle for fourth spot could be every bit as tight as last season, with fine margins separating the have's and have not's come next May.
There is no doubt however that this seasons side is more ruthless and single-minded than those of seasons past. Last season of course was blighted by leads being thrown away, which of course did for Mark Hughes's tenure in charge, and there were a number of games pointed to that illicited feelings of ‘what if' and ‘if only'.
So how does this season fare? Just over a third of the way through the season is enough of a sample to gage whether there is enough to suggest that the Stoke game was an aberration and that there is a determination to hold onto leads and to overcome deficits to grab unlikely (and at times undeserved) points.
In 2010/11 so far, there have been 15 games played. The playing record is W7 D5 L3. Of those 5 draws, 3 have finished goalless (perhaps another post for another time?). Of the remaining games, City have taken the lead in 9 games and conceded first in 3 games.
In the 9 games City have gone ahead, 22 points have been accrued. 5 points have been lost from winning positions: a record of W7 D1 L1.
Of the 3 games City have fallen behind, 1 point has been won. The two other games City fell behind both resulted in defeats: a record of W0 D1 L2.
The record clearly shows that scoring first invariably leads to victory, with Roberto Mancini's system ideally suited for the possession-based game and strong defensive pairing that is ideal at protecting leads. The only two games were City scored first and didn't subsequently win were the defeat at Wolves and Stoke on Saturday.
When falling behind, although on a smaller scale, it is less impressive. A point was salvaged after falling behind to the comedy goal at home to Blackburn, whilst defeats to Arsenal and Sunderland were contrasting ones - one game over early and one a last minute defeat in a game that should have been won.
Whilst the evidence largely points to the fact that City are not prone to throwing points away this season, and that going ahead is predominantly a precursor to three points, there are concerns. In the final ten minutes of games, City have conceded four goals - Sunderland, Blackpool, Arsenal and Stoke. Whilst the Arsenal and Blackpool goals didn't affect the final score, there goals conceded at Sunderland and Stoke (both away games it has to be said) saw City drop four points.
In contrast, City have failed to 'steal' games this season, with just one goal (against Newcastle) scored in the final twenty minutes of a game changing the outcome of a game. That said, in ten of the fifteen games this season, City have either held onto the lead or a goalless draw, so they have not been in positions where they have had to chase games on too many occasions.
Whilst the play this season has highlighted that the side does lack an edge at times in being able to break an opposition down (examples being the back to back games against Birmingham and United) the fact that so many games where City take the lead they go onto win is proof itself that the side has the kind of mentality required to remain in the upper reaches of the Premier League.