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Fulham 2 - 2 City: Five Thoughts

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What is it about Fulham? A two-goal half time lead should be sufficient enough to enable a side to comfortably close out a game but there really is a pattern developing against them in recent times.

It is now 15 games since either side registered a clean sheet in games between the two sides but it is when each side tend to score that is most interesting. Including yesterdays game, the past eight encounters have seen City score 15 goals, 10 of which have come in the opening half whilst Fulham have not notched 12 of their 13 after the break. This has resulted in City now throwing three two-goal leads away to Fulham in the past four seasons.

Of concern to City now? Next up in the Premier League is nemesis side Everton.

Having made just the one appearance so far in 2011/12 City have become accustomed to life without Nigel de Jong and in the main have fared well in his absence. Yesterday however was a stark reminder of his value to the side and indicative perhaps that the proliferation of goals scored has masked some weaknesses at the back.

I was on the Cottage Talk podcast ahead of the game and identified the area between the defensive pair and the midfield as an area Fulham could profit in through Bobby Zamora, Clint Demspey and Danny Murphy - and so it proved.

Roberto Mancini has taken some heat for introducing Pablo Zabaleta into the game but at the time it was a logical move. The decision to remove David Silva - and his clinical touch in the final third - is a different question though, but of most concern is that the side have conceded in every game away from home so far.

de Jong's authority can't return soon enough. 

Mancini suggested post-game that he felt the players had thought the game was won when Sergio Aguero scored his second so soon into the second-half. If so, they weren't alone and despite Fulham's second-half record against City I likewise couldn't see anything other than coming away with three points.

One of the strengths during 2010/11 was the ability to close out games once a lead had been established and it is easy to forget yesterday the first time points had been dropped this season. Such has been the manner of the start City have made that the bar is now so high that any drop off results in a far greater reaction.

Yesterday was likely an aberration rather than a sign of things to come but should it sharpen minds and focus after all of the praise that has been lavished it may ultimately be no bad thing.

I am loathe to talk of a Champions League hangover and especially labour the point of how all Premier League fixtures following European games are away from home. Fulham too though played in midweek (on Thursday) and it is worth noting that they made four changes from that side whilst Mancini made only two (Gael Clichy and Micah Richards) and it was surprising that Mancini made so few changes and the expectation was that certainly Carlos Tevez, and one or both of Adam Johnson and Mario Balotelli would get the nod.

In their previous European travails, City have tended to struggle in games after playing in midweek and should there be a significant drop in terms of points return in these six fixtures (which do contain some tricky-looking games) it will damage hopes in terms of a title challenge.

Mancini did raise (to the sympathy of no-one I'm sure) the issue squad depth, citing in particular an inability to make changes in midfield due to injuries in this area to de Jong and Milner. What is perhaps close to the truth is that he may have felt though that the fringe players hadn't seen sufficient minutes to date to warrant making a significant number of changes.

In that regard the Birmingham will wholesale changes to the side that has featured in the main so far.