Another game, another dominant win. Despite a minor scare at the beginning of the second half, City cruised to yet another resounding win leaving another opponent devastated in their wake.
Whilst the impressive result is important, the fact that City were able to recover from some defensive mistakes and dominate the second half like they did was phenomenal. Even six months ago, a full collapse could have been a very real possibility. Moreover, this bodes well for the visit of Napoli as a poor result or performance could well have carried over into a crucial Champions League fixture.
The result tastes evens sweeter when we consider how City’s main title rivals have fared this afternoon. A small gap at the top of the table has opened up; hopefully it will continue to grow.
Defensive Mistakes Not Entirely Erased
Whilst not a massive cause for concern due to the result, today’s performance was a gentle reminder that despite being excellent defensively so far this season we cannot become complacent. The two goals conceded today reeked of over-confidence and laziness. A sloppy tackle here, a lapse in concentration there and for a brief period at the start of the second half the good work done in the opening half an hour was erased.
Pep was visibly angry as he headed to the dressing room at half-time and I’m sure the players will have been made aware just how poorly they handled those situations. In a strange way, it is probably a good thing this happened today. A polite wake-up call to the defenders ahead of the daunting prospect of containing Napoli’s rampant attacking unit.
Incredible Attacking Flexibility
The football on display today in attacking sense was out of this world. A whirlwind of movement made Stoke look like amateurs as they struggled to cope with the carousel of City players in front of them. When looking at the performances of our attackers, their flexibility is what strikes me as the most impressive. All of them are capable of playing anywhere across the final third and this adaptability and unpredictability is causing teams endless problems this season. One moment Sterling could be hugging the touchline, the next in the right half space and then moving all the way over to the left wing. It meant that the Stoke defenders couldn’t get settled and constantly had to adjust their game and they simply couldn’t handle it.
Even late on when the game was winding down this flexibility was still on show. Bernardo Silva came on and played as the central forward, but swapped positions and interchanged with everyone around him. City’s attacking unit is something to be feared right now and looks as if they could have beating of any defence put in front of them. Goals and assists galore are sure to come.
De Bruyne Is No Mere Mortal
Every game the Belgian just gets more and more impressive. Ignore the pundits that cry out “he needs to add more goals to his game”. If he continues to play at this level over the course of the season then the amount of assists he may end up getting is a scary prospect. Add to that the “pre-assists” that he so often contributes and his influence over City’s attacking output is frightening. Today alone he made two essential passes that broke Stoke down and eventually lead to goals, although he won’t receive any credit for that.
It is becoming more and more apparent that Guardiola’s decision to employ him in a deeper role this season is a stroke of genius. Both De Bruyne and the entire team seem to be functioning at a much higher level as a result of this and it’s hard to see a team in the league that is capable of stopping them. Without a doubt, he is the best midfielder in the league right now and if City are to take home multiple trophies this season, you can bet De Bruyne will play a huge role in those triumphs.