Stoke City came away with all three points yesterday after beating Manchester 1-0 at the Etihad. The result was something of a surprise for most onlookers and inflicted City’s first defeat of the season. Here’s a look at the main talking points.
City Didn’t Deserve Anything
When a team gets what they deserve in football there is invariably little room for complaint and that was largely the case yesterday. City were slow in their movement, sloppy in their passing and short on ideas whenever they approached the final third. It struck me that there was almost an air of complacency amongst the players given the stature of the opposition which is surprising given that Manuel Pellegrini has struggled in all his previous encounters against Stoke since arriving in Manchester last summer. It was only after Stoke scored that City played with any impetus but by then it was too late.
I have heard some grumblings that City should have had a penalty near the end which might well be true but a draw would have probably been unfair result (assuming that the penalty was awarded and subsequently scored). Of course, Stoke also had a shout for a penalty in the first half but that may be largely ignored by aggrieved City fans.
Credit to Stoke
As much as I am not a fan of Stoke City or Mark Hughes credit where credit is due. They had a game plan and they executed it well. They defended extremely deep and looked to create chances on the break. This shouldn’t have been a surprise to City given that this is exactly how they set up in Manchester last season. On that occasion City did just about enough to win. Stoke’s approach to the game is certainly not attractive but they can hardly be expected to come to City and try and play swash bucketing football. From City’s perspective it was worrying how vulnerable they looked on the break. Even the most passive observer could have figured out Stoke’s game plan so quite how City failed to cope with such an obvious tactic is worrying.
It gets worse the more you watch it. Kolarov should have taken Diouf out of the game really: a cynical approach but arguably no different to the type of gamesmanship that Stoke employed as they time wasted towards the end of the game. Fernandinho was already on a booking so it was always going to be difficult for him to commit to a challenge. Joe Hart, however, really should have saved what was a very tame effort that was shot straight at him. I doubt I am on the only one who is wondering how long it will be before Willy Caballero is called into action.
This was an early season game and the performance suggested as much. It may be no bad thing to get such a performance out of the way early in the season. That said, the fixtures that are on the horizon really mean that yesterday was a game that City could ill afford to lose. It would be a huge surprise if City were to get six points from both Chelsea and Arsenal especially considering that Bayern Munich away is sandwiched in between. Yesterday was by no means a disaster in terms of the entire season but it has certainly put a dent into what was an otherwise smooth start to the season.
Written by Rob Toole who is on Twitter