Manchester City: Johnson understands Balotelli's way

Adam Johnson is not worried about Mario Balotelli's emotionless reaction scoring goals for Manchester City.

Manager Roberto Mancini cheerfully admitted he could "punch" the Italian, so bemused is he by the 20-year-old's failure to extract any excitement from the most passionate of sports.

Balotelli himself claims to be only doing his job and doesn't view his feats - eight goals in 11 appearances after his hat-trick against Aston Villa yesterday - as anything out of the ordinary.

It does not appear there is any chance of the former Inter Milan man changing his ways, even if City manage to sustain their challenge at the top of the Premier League and eventually clinch the title, as the striker confidently predicts.

But that is no concern for Johnson and his team-mates.

As long as Balotelli keeps on performing to present levels, they are not concerned how he reacts.

"That is just him. It is the way he is," said the England winger.

"I don't think you can read anything by it. He is the type of person who doesn't tend to show much emotion.

"As long as he scores goals, it doesn't matter. And he showed yesterday what a goalscorer he is; a tap-in and two penalties."

It helped put the gloss on another excellent performance from the Blues just 48 hours after an equally emphatic success over Newcastle at St James' Park.

There are issues for Mancini to address; City tend to throw in the odd ineffective display when it is least expected, such as the one that saw them defeated by Everton at Eastlands immediately before Christmas.

Yet there is an argument for saying City are the most consistently convincing challengers in a title race that extends to five contenders, none of whom can put forward a compelling case to be champions.

City have the extra advantage of being able to spend big during next month's transfer window, with Wolfsburg forward Edin Dzeko increasingly likely to complete his big-money move, even if Mancini will not enter into any public discussion on the matter.

Indeed, even though the Italian can no longer respond to questions about his own side's position by stating he expects Chelsea to retain their crown "easily", he is still far more content to skirt around the issue as opposed to addressing it properly.

"You must always play for the top," he said.

"Maybe you don't have a team that can win the league but you must always play for it.

"We have a good team. But we need to improve. And this season is

strange. It is very long."

No longer than any other campaign of course, and as Mancini now realises, stamina is required in abundance.

Saturday's encounter with surprise package Blackpool is followed by a trip to Arsenal that could do so much to shape the seasons of both clubs as they attempt to exert pressure on favourites Manchester United.

Realistically, the best Johnson can hope for on the latter occasion is to be introduced from the bench.

Yet again yesterday though, he proved what a penetrative force he can be for the Blues.

It was Johnson who crossed for Joleon Lescott's controversial second goal - and the former Middlesbrough winger was then sent tumbling by Marc Albrighton to set up Balotelli for his hat-trick sealing penalty.

"All my life I have run at defences. It is the main part of my game and that will never change," said the winger.

"I have played on the right quite often for City even though I am left-footed.

"When you are playing on the other side, you tend to want to come in onto your strong foot.

"I do that but I try to mix it up as well and go on the outside.

"We have got ourselves into a good position but no-one is getting carried away.

"We will just try to keep winning games and see what happens."

Hadi Sacko

Bid for Mateusz Klich shows Leeds United are keen to do business