With the dust beginning to settle on the game at Villa Park, nerves less frayed and safely armed with all three points we can begin to rest a little easier than we did for the best part of 80 or so minutes earlier today.
It was a game that was beginning to take the shape of 'one of those days' type of games: shot and passing dominance, territorial control; everything apart from getting the ball in the net was going City's way. But whilst it was certainly tense, and frustrating, with evidence of some of City's failings of the season so far being apparent, it should not be forgotten that this was a dominant City performance.
Admittedly, it was against a Villa side content to sit back and chance their arm on the counter (as has been their raison d'etre for the season so far). Paul Lambert must be mightily frustrated that a combination of City's persistence and determination finally pushed aside the tired legs and minds of his defence to seal the win.
With the possibility of the game finishing goalless (a rarity for this City side) and with David Silva's limits knowing no bounds my thoughts turned to angles for my piece for The Metro. An immediate thought was the despite the talent in City's attack it was solely Silva who was influencing every part of City's creative output. Where was Yaya Toure? It had been another largely ineffectual performance from Toure but the introduction of Fernando and Frank Lampard pushed him forward and as a tired Villa defence stood off him, he curled a lovely left footed shot beyond Brad Guzan. It was likely game over at that point and Sergio Aguero made sure minutes later.
The Toure goal - it's importance and sense of timing - was very reminiscent of the game away to Newcastle a couple of seasons ago en route to the title win. His influence was far more tangible during that stretch but he did show that the knack of being able to win a game has not been lost. The return of Fernando today was important (although possibly tempered by a hamstring injury to Fernandinho) and it may be that Toure is 'released' from his more defensive duties with that pairing behind him.
Toure will likely get the headlines, such is what goals can do, but the star was undoubtedly David Silva. The 30 minute spell to open the second half ranks surely amongst the best spells he has produced for the club (and there is no shortage of other contenders). Perhaps Liverpool and Hull away from last season can compare. To match the level of skill and technical proficiency he has with a force and will to win is a rare old thing. We are undoubtedly watching the player who will go down as City's greatest ever. I'll leave Zac MacPhee's suggestion as the match report right here:
@danny_pugsley Silva Silva Silva Silva Silva Silva Silva Silva Silva Silva Silva Silva Silva Silva Silva Silva Silva Silva Silva Silva Silva— Zac MacPhee (@MacPhever) October 4, 2014
It was also noted that as well as a tiring defence (or perhaps because of?) Silva drifted more centrally in the second half, but what we do know after the break was that City not only ramped up their shots at goal but they finally hit the target. The first 45 minutes yielded 12 shots but none on target (nine blocked):
And then onto the second half:
Seven of 14 on target, with a better shot location too which increased their expected goals number.
In getting the second goal of the game Aguero moved to within one goal of Carlos Tevez as City's all-time Premier League scorer, achieved (to date) in around 20 or so fewer games. The finish was classic Aguero and he also provided a moment when he stunned all watching City fans, when his one-on-one with Guzan saw his shot come back off the post (and straight between a waiting Silva and Edin Dzeko). It was telling as the minute the ball left his foot a cheer went up from the travelling City fans, such was the expectation of the ball hitting the net. When it didn't, a stunned silence descended.
Whilst not threatened aside from the Kieran Richardson chance, it was good to see a clean sheet registered. It was just the first since (in the Premier League) since the opening day win at Newcastle and will hopefully see the partnership of Vincent Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala develop further. The return of Fernando can only but help in this regard.
And a quick, final point. The win makes it 10 points from 12 away from home in 2014/15 -and one defeat in 16 away from home. The number of games in 2013/14 it took to achieve that mark? Nine. Away form has been one of City's weak spots throughout the Hughes/Mancini/Pellegrini eras (contrasting with the dominant home form). If they can remedy this then aligned with an expected return at home and the pressure will continue to be placed on Chelsea.