The evidence certainly backs this up. Check out this Guardian chalkboard of Ireland's passing yesterday. Very successful, yes, but with nothing into the penalty area or even into the channels within twenty or so yards of the byline. Contrast this with his performance in a similar game from last season: the 2-1 win at Goodison Park, where Ireland, playing in the hole, was much more incisive in his passing. Whether Ireland's role develops in this way remains to be seen.
To the delight of 7,000 City fans, Hughes could certainly not be accused of lacking adventure away from home. He started without an orthodox holding midfielder, leaving Nigel de Jong on the bench and pairing Stephen Ireland and Gareth Barry.
Ireland is a hard worker but more suited to pushing on, linking with attackers, a trait thrillingly shown in striking City's second goal.
If Ireland, in particular, is to be used in this deeper role, clearly more time will be required on the training ground. Little tinkering is needed with the front four, a kaleidoscope of movement at times.
by Guardian Chalkboards