A point at the Britannia is something we have become accustomed to in recent years but although we can take a great deal of heart from the fact we more than coped with Stoke’s phyiscal, but limited, approach, there is a tinge of frustration at not being able to grab all three. Javi Garcia’s header and Edin Dzeko’s lob came ever so close to securing the win our display deserved but at the end of season, we may look back and conclude that this was a point gained rather than two lost.
This was a performance characterised by attrition as opposed to our usual fluency, and the character and togetherness shown in the face of the home side’s at times thuggish style suggested much. Whereas in previous seasons we may have succumbed to an early goal and struggled to make an impression on a game, yesterday highlighted how much we’ve kicked on. A thoroughly dominant second-half showing merited all three points but as it is, we are still unbeaten having already traveled to two of the toughest grounds in the country.
Roberto Mancini named a side that clearly took the international break into serious consideration. Of those who had gone away with their countries and featured twice, only Joe Hart and the two centre-backs, Joleon Lescott and Vincent Kompany, were handed a starting berth. The manager evidently wanted to keep matters fresh for this game and looking ahead to Tuesday’s mouthwatering contest with Real Madrid.
Javi Garcia made his debut and scored the equalising goal with we have been told is a trademark header. However, I was a touch underwhelmed with his overall performance, something which may seem a tad harsh to say bearing in mind it was his first appearance in a City shirt, but although there were promising signs, I think he’ll need to step it up a few notches with Gareth Barry now lurking. Garcia’s positional sense was sound, dropping in to form a back three on occasions when City had the ball but it was his passing which disappointed me.
He seemed nervous, perhaps understandably, and his touch on ball I felt was hesitant and overly cautious. Whilst Barry, last season, kept it simple, he also played with urgency, setting a quick tempo to our play and showed glimpses of incisiveness. Garcia, for me, played it too safe and will have to improve in terms of quality of possession, but there were enough signs to suggest he will.
Scott Sinclair was another debutant and he has taken some flak in certain quarters but I actually thought he was the best of the trio (Maicon and Garcia being the others). His defensive willing, tracking back and ability to tackle would have pleased Mancini enormously and the difference between the former Swansea man and Adam Johnson in that regard was manifest.
On the ball, he displayed some nice touches and looked capable of beating a man either with trickery or pace. There wasn’t too much in the form of end product but that will come with time. It was, in my eyes, an impressive debut at a ground where he may have struggled.
The third if the new-boys, Maicon, is a lovable eccentric. Typically southern-Brazilian in his relaxed manner, he looked far more comfortable bombing forward than he did when faced with a pacy winger in his own half, but as with the other, his performance hinted at more to come. His decision making in attack was sometimes poor, but he looked at home taking on men and displayed pleasing quality in the final third. He will have tougher tests defensively, but he looks like an excellent option as a marauding wingback when we play 3-5-2.
Opposition View: Stoke have the quality of player to play a far more attractive style of football than they currently do. The likes of Kightly, Etherington and Whelan are all excellent footballers but their approach yesterday was limited to say the least. It was very much a route one, hoof the ball to Peter Crouch style which proved effective once but then failed to muster any chances. There was no attempt to pass the ball or get it out wide and use their wingers and I’m sure it’s frustrating to have to observe that every week. Add in the thuggish Charlie Adam and Andy Wilkinson and that’s certainly not a team I’d pay money to watch.
As for the Blues, the tantalising Champions League encounter with Real Madrid at the Bernabeu is next before Arsenal visit the Etihad.