Those with a distaste for Manchester City's spending seem to feel it compels them to play an expansive type of football but Roberto Mancini doesn't care. The manager, who emerged from the last Manchester derby to a barrage of abuse about his lack of ambition, is heading up towards another one desperate to see his side become more boring.
City have conceded 11 goals in the six games since last month's goalless draw at Arsenal and have kept no clean sheets in that time. Old Trafford awaits Mancini in a week's time and another draw against West Bromwich Albion today would send his players into that game 10 points behind Sir Alex Ferguson's and feeling considerably less jaunty than they were three weeks ago when they briefly went top of the table.
"I like one-nils,"Mancini reflected yesterday. "When you don't concede a goal and you have players like [Edin] Dzeko, [Carlos] Tevez or [David] Silva, you win 90 per cent. I [would] prefer [if] we are boring for two to three games and we win 1-0. If you watch top teams in the past who won the title they conceded very few goals." He is right, of course. City's two leaked goals at Birmingham in midweek means they have now conceded as many as two of the title winning sides of the past five years.
The memory of one of City's last title winners, Neil Young, who died this week, may be a source of inspiration today. But Mancini needs some defensive inspiration too. He leapt to the defence of Joe Hart yesterday against suggestions by Fabio Capello that Hart lacked concentration. "Maybe sometimes he has lost his concentration but I am very happy with him. I know Joe very well." Mancini still does not seem sure whether Joleon Lescott or Kolo Touré – equally unconvincing – is the ideal centre-back to accompany the reliable Vincent Kompany.
Mancini, who raised the prospect of Mario Balotelli being fit for the bench at Old Trafford, will be without Micah Richards after his clash of heads at Birmingham with Nigel de Jong, who will probably have recovered. He also believes Shaun Wright-Phillips will recover from the disappointment of a rejected transfer request to fill in for the injured Adam Johnson. "He is the one player we have who is very quick," Mancini said of Wright-Phillips.
The manager, who confirmed City tried to sign Fernando Torres this summer, found himself in the novel position of being asked to expound on the number of large transfer fees paid by other clubs in the transfer window. "When you try to buy a player on the last day of the transfer window, then you have to pay more," he said. "We wanted to buy [Edin] Dzeko in the summer because we thought Torres would be difficult."
But it is at the other end of the pitch that his focus will be concentrated.