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Manchester City 2 - 1 Villarreal: Five Thoughts

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What an important goal. Football can so often be a game of small margins in determining success and failure and when substitute

Sergio Aguero tapped home deep into injury time it may not have just been an important win that was achieved, but provided the spark for City to get their stuttering Champions League campaign underway. With the other match in Group ending in a draw the three points gained have put City back in striking distance of both Napoli and Group leaders Bayern Munich. With a pair of away games in Villarreal and then Napoli to come, City know that back to back wins will almost certainly ensure progression to the knock-out stages.  

On the balance of play City were deserved winners and although late, Aguero's goal was just reward for the sustained pressure that they had in the second-half in particular when a number of opportunities to get a second goal were squandered. What is apparent though in watching their European games in comparison to the Premier League fixtures is the lack of command City appear to possess. We have seen in the Premier League City's attacking threat be far too strong for sides, yet in Europe (even accounting for the step up in terms of quality) - and although enjoying the majority of play - they have been far from as clinical in the final third and in front of goal.

Another area of concern that remains is the issue of concentration. Once again, the goal that was conceded was largely a self-inflicted one; caught in possession on the edge of area and then Joe Hart failing to push the ball away to safety. The goal last night meant that City have conceded first in each of the games so far (the total opposite to Premier League games), which may explain why it is a far less confident and authoritative side than we are used to seeing. It would certainly be interesting to see how different a City side we would see if an early lead was established.

A lot what was made of the early substitution that Roberto Mancini made in bringing off Adam Johnson little over half an hour into the game. It was a substitution I called a little earlier in that Edin Dzeko was far too isolated - and Johnson struggling to impact the game - that the sensible move was to push Yaya Toure further forward in support (a role he excelled in against Aston Villa on Saturday) and to play more through the middle with a bolstered midfield. Mancini explained well his move saying:

"We had conceded four or five counter-attacks and we didn't have enough players in the middle. Plus I wanted to move Yaya [Touré] behind Edin. It was not because Adam was playing badly. Adam played very well but at that moment I needed to make a tactical substitution. I spoke to him and he understood. Sometimes a manager needs a tactical sub and unfortunately players have to leave the pitch and will be disappointed."

The introduction of Gareth Barry into the centre of midfield certainly gave the side more impetus from an attacking stance. Whilst the decision would unlikely have been made if the score was 0-0 it was the right decision nonetheless.

It was clear that City were not as clinical in the final third as we are used to seeing this season and one man who spurned three very good chances was Edin Dzeko. The Bosnian started the season in scintillating form but has now gone six games and 19 shots without a goal. Granted he was more involved in the play following the introduction of Sergio Aguero but on the whole looks off-form at the moment and offers noticeably less to the side than he when he is on the scoresheet. It would be a huge surprise if Mario Balotelli (who missed the third of four European games through suspension) did not return for the game at United this weekend.