As we have moved further into the 2010/11 season I have increasingly written about the fact the Mancini approach is becoming more and more ingrained into the consciousness of the side; that his vision is now being followed to the letter by a side which appears to have complete 'buy in' to his methods.
Yesterdays victory was a perfect example of this.
Despite losing the possession battle (53%-47% in favour of Chelsea) it didn't feel one sided in this regard. Mancini again deployed his favoured trio in midfield, the idea to restrict both the time and space in this area; and it worked perfectly.
Nigel de Jong, Gareth Barry and Yaya Toure were all excellent and frustrated Mikel, Essien and Ramires, the Chelsea trio failing to link often enough with the forwards to trouble City's defence. The absence of Frank Lampard may have been significant in City controlling this area, but it is not the first, and won't be the last time this midfield is able to snuff out an opponent. de Jong in particular was excellent; bullish, tenacious and willing to stand toe to toe with an opponent, his position such a vital cog in the make-up of the side, and there is a case for suggesting that Tevez apart, he is the most influential member of the side in terms of performing his role.
Although averaging over four goals per game heading into yesterdays game, Chelsea were restricted. The free-flowing Drogba, Anelka and Malouda were blunted. The double header from Ivanovic aside, long range efforts were all Chelsea mustered, with Hart seriously tested on only one occasion.
Mancini's plan is to restrict and nullify, then play on the break, and despite a lack of size, Tevez was again, perfect in this role. Powerful, pacy and with an improving eye for goal (particularly game winning ones), he is able to drag defences out of position. Also important was David Silva, and, whilst he may never shrug off question marks over his size, flitted around expertly, and certainly looked to back up the ascertion that he has the 'biggest cojones' within the Spanish squad.
The deployment of Yaya Toure in a more advanced role was also an interesting factor. So far during his brief career at City, he has been notable for largely keeping things simple, doing the basics well. Yesterday though he was far more ambitious. Not a trequartista by any stretch but as well as being excellent in possession, his ability to bring the fall forward was noticeable and he linked with Silva and Tevez as much as he did with Barry and de Jong.
The plan was to restrict time and space for Chelsea and the first half in particular was a cramped affair. Both sides failed to create opportunities in the first half, but importantly, on the only occasion where a side managed to break with space and lack of numbers in front of them it was City, and led to Tevez's winner.
As disappointing as the midweek defeat to West Brom was, victory, I think, was vindication of Mancini's decision given the performance was by a side that looked fresh and ready for the fight. Equally important though was following the disappointment of the dropped points against Sunderland and Blackburn, the side has bounced back with successive victories and are now sit within the top four.
On the basis of what we have seen this season, there is no reason to suggest that this is something that won't continue.