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Thoughts on the West Brom victory

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Heading into the game, the message Roberto Mancini was preaching was one of 'getting back to basics', a return to the play witnessed earlier in the season. This was construed as meaning the adopting of a negative approach; come away with the win regardless of how it is achieved. Effective not entertaining.

What was witnessed was a return to the play of earlier in the season, but not how most interpreted it. Fundamental to City's success earlier in the season was the ability to strike early and close games out. Prior to the game, the record when going ahead in games was an impressive W12 D2 L1. The difficulty the side has is in trying to chase games

On Saturday there were no such concerns as City raced into an early lead and stepped on the accelerator rather than easing off the gas.

 

There were surprises in the line-up that Mancini fielded. No Nigel de Jong meant a switch around in personnel with neither Patrick Vieira, or even Pablo Zabaleta, replacing him. Instead, Gareth Barry was the deepest of the midfield trio, Zabaleta in at left back and Aleksandar Kolarov deployed further forward on the left hand side - and to great effect providing the pace and drive to the creativity of David Silva and Carlos Tevez, who was back in a more central role with Edin Dzeko starting on the bench.

Of course, the key components were Tevez and Silva. Birthday boy Tevez grabbed the headlines with his hat-trick, but if he was the executor then Silva was the creator. We witnessed yet another wonderful pass for the second goal and it can't be long before the DVD of his passes is released. There are potentially a number of candidates at this point but Silva is going to be a lock in for player of the year. 

There was no question that Tevez was more effective centrally and it does rise questions of exactly how Dzeko will fit into the side at present, something I did raise on Twitter as to whether adding him in January as the wisest move given the time it will take to integrate into the side. That said, there are plenty of games coming up now in both League and Cup and he will undoubtedly have a part to play.

After the manner of the performance in the first half it was perhaps inevitable that after the break it would be a more sluggish showing, with City failing to have the control they did earlier in the game and the pace of play did drop. This naturally allowed West Brom to get a foothold into the game and they were perhaps unlucky not to grab a goal. Joe Hart made a couple of confident saves and Vincent Komapny had a good day as there was a positive reaction from the defense after recent travails. On a day of goals in the Premier League it was impressive that the clean sheet was earned.

The day after the game of course saw West Brom fire Roberto di Matteo, a harsh decision, but like Blackpool, early season over achievement has given way to reality. A light squad and tough games are hard to overcome and they are in freefall at the moment and could be in real trouble.

For City however, with favourable results elsewhere this weekend, hopes of the title may well have been reignited