Wigan 0 Man City 2: Lessons learned as the Citizens scrape to victory
Wigan 0 Man City 2: What lessons did we learn as the Citizens scraped to victory at the DW Stadium on Wednesday night?
Balotelli makes his mark
With a raft of striking options at the disposal of manager Roberto Mancini, Mario Balotelli has found it difficult to force his way into the first-team picture. After Edin Dzeko and Carlos Tevez were given a rest, the rotation policy paid off as the enigmatic front-man netted. Much of the talk in recent weeks has focused on how Balotelli, 22, needs to mature and work harder to be a regular part of the starting XI. He went some way to proving that he can cope with the responsibility of leading the line of the Premier League champions, alongside Sergio Aguero. His first league goal of the season came on 69 minutes – Ali Al-Habsi spilt Gareth Barry’s initial effort, the controversial forward was first to the rebound with a persistent piece of play, as he tucked home at the second attempt. This was their first goal on the road for 250 minutes, and provided the impetus that the visitors needed to push on for the win and extend their unbeaten record to 20 Premier League matches. If he puts in more displays like this one, then the City manager may have more selection headaches to contend with.
City’s defence prove their worth
Before the game, the Citizens boasted the best defensive record in the league, having conceded just 10 goals in 13 matches. In this fixture at the DW Stadium, Maicon, Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic were given the task of preserving this impressive statistic. Once again, the back four showed that they can provide a solid base for the remainder of the side to build on. On a number of occasions, Zabaleta and his Belgian skipper made important blocks to deny Franco Di Santo, Arouna Kone and Jean Beausejour. The central defensive pairing of Kompany and Nastasic proved to be incredibly difficult to break down as Wigan struggled to create clear-cut opportunities. Incredibly, this clean sheet meant that they picked up a sixth successive win over the Latics without conceding a goal.
Mixed night for Al-Habsi
Since joining on a permanent basis from Bolton in 2011, the Omani keeper has showed his class with a number of important saves to ensure vital points. There was a mix of emotions for him on a chilly night at the DW Stadium though, with good and bad traits being evident. He showed his outstanding agility with a number of saves from the visiting attackers, with David Silva, Balotelli and Yaya Toure kept out. When the breakthrough was eventually made by the visitors, it was down to an error from the shot stopper – a side of his game which often rears its head. In the weekend fixture against Reading, he inexplicably fumbled the ball into the back of the net to allow the Royals to momentarily level. On that occasion it didn’t cost his side any points but it can definitely be argued that this mistake did, as the hosts matched the champions before the opening goal. He stood no chance with the second of the night as James Milner slammed a stunning effort home just three minutes later. Often the 30-year-old is looked upon to be the saviour for Roberto Martínez’s team as he consistently produces solid displays but his manager will hope to cut out these minor difficulties completely.