Even if City did manage to come back and draw 2-2 after some sort of super-human effort and a miraculous divine intervention, or you know, something Manchester City seem to be able to do on a regular basis and claw the game back when all seemed lost, it still would have been a bad day.
They couldn’t manage it this time, though. Stoke were just better the whole of the game.
Even if City’s possession stats were higher, even if they managed more shots and more passes, they still looked like they had less quality. They simply didn’t look up for the fight today.
The title race is wide open, and it may well just turn into a free for all later on. The key to winning the league this season will be making sure you are the most consistent team in the league in the second half of the season.
On the basis of today, City don’t have what it takes to do that. They were overrun by Stoke today and simply didn’t turn up, and that and that certainly isn’t a mark of Champions.
Teams now know how to beat them.
Here are three things we learned…
We learned this two weeks ago when City played Liverpool, and we learned it in September when Spurs beat them, too. But they were the teams who we knew already would press and make life difficult for City.
What we didn’t know was just how badly City would crumble when put under pressure by a team like Stoke. Every team in the league has the capability to do what Stoke can. Staying solid at the back, pressing hard and hitting City on the counter isn’t beyond any team in the league, and that’s worrying for City. Their weakness has been exposed and don’t be surprised if you see it exposed more often.
— Hassan Yazdi ☕️ (@H_Yazdi786) December 5, 2015
As worrying as defeat today, and the manner in which it happened, was for City, you have to give credit where it’s due.
Stoke were excellent. They were excellent when they were on the ball because they always looked like they could score. They were excellent off the ball because they stood up to City’s attacks. They outplayed City, they outran City and they outscored City. But more importantly, their players were wonderful. Bojan was a joy to watch and Shaqiri looked every bit the player who could have starred at Bayern Munich given the chance. Now they’re doing the business for Stoke.
Mark Hughes has assembled a wonderful little side who are capable of playing some wonderful football. And they find themselves climbing up the table. Don’t be surprised if this Stoke side goes from strength to strength.
Bojan the magician
For all the money they’ve spent, City can’t cope with injuries
Without Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero. With David Silva not totally back to his best after injury, too, you can forgive City for an off-colour performance in some sense.
Any team would miss those players. If you take out your main area of defensive solidity, your main midfield powerhouse and your main goal threat, then you’re always going to struggle more than usual.
Yet for all the money that City have spent over the last few seasons, you’d expect them to have strength in depth. For all the talk of a holistic approach to running a football club and all the talk of having two players in every position, City really struggle without their main players.
When they’re not in the team, your best bet is on a City loss.