Ahsan looks back at Manchester City’s frustrating 0-0 draw with Stoke City and draws three key interesting conclusions. *Raheem Sterling alert*.
It’s a fine balance
I’ve been purring in the last few weeks at the fluidity of our attacking movement and the ease with which we’ve been cutting teams open. However, as I mentioned in the Weekend Review podcast after the Sunderland game, breaking-up the De Bruyne/Silva axis in the middle of midfield comes at a cost, and that was laid bare tonight. We lacked the fluidity and movement in midfield to really trouble Stoke’s low defensive block.
In all fairness, it didn’t help that Kevin had probably his worst game in a City shirt. I don’t know what was up with him tonight, but the sooner he puts it behind him the better. It seemed like he’d misplaced more passes than he actually completed, which is incredible for a player of his quality, and in the end he had almost no impact on the game aside from a couple of dangerous balls in the final ten minutes.
Toure and Fernadinho battled manfully against Stoke’s cloggers, but in truth Aguero was starved of any service and the two or three clear chances we did create were eagerly snatched at.
Sterling is key to this City side
We missed Sterling tonight. I know I’ll be accused of bias, but there was a Raz shaped hole on the right-hand side of our attack. I’m loathed to lay into Navas because we know he’s leaving on a free in the summer, but my word he was all sorts of rubbish. He ran around a lot but other than that I really can’t think of a positive thing he did to impact the game. Oh wait, he did float a half decent cross to the back post when I thought he was going to drill another one into the defender’s legs, but that was it.
It’s no coincidence also that Sané had his poorest game in a while either without his pal on the other wing to stretch Stoke’s back four. He’s gotten a lot of headlines and plenty of praise in recent weeks but tonight was definitely a reminder that he’s still very young and has a lot of developing and improving to do. Stoke double and triple teamed him with every chance they got and neither Yaya nor KDB could really get him into the game properly.
The clean sheets keep coming
Even taking into account Clichy’s somewhat erratic defending at times tonight, we were again pretty robust as a defensive outfit. Considering how porous we looked at times earlier in the season we seem to have found a new found resilience which is nice to see.
Could anyone have really imagined at the start of the season that the axis of our defence would be Caballero AND Kolarov? Both were quietly impressive again tonight and dealt with the dross Stoke threw at them with minimal fuss. Kolarov brought the ball forward and used it relatively intelligently, whilst Otamendi managed to control himself from having another of his trademark brain-dead moments
I’m fairly sure we’ll concede in Monaco don’t get me wrong, but for the moment it it’s nice to not be conceding in every game and also to generally look comfortable defensively.