Stoke City 0 Manchester City 0: Five talking points
By Ric Turner, Mon 16 September 2013 10:29
More questions than answers following draw at The Britannia Stadium
1) Yaya Toure is not being utilised effectively. The big Ivorian isn't suited to his new holding role, and it's to the detriment of the whole team. Toure gets to dictate play from his deeper position, but it is frequently too slow and laboured. There seem to be too many pointless sideways passes before we are closed down by the opposition, and then launch the ball aimlessly upfield and surrender possession. Toure is clearly more threatening further up the pitch, and one late surge where he shrugged off three Stoke players before winning a free kick in a dangerous area showed what he is capable of in a more advanced role.
2) Joe Hart's return to form. The England keeper was much maligned in the press at the start of the season, but Hart now has five clean sheets in the six competitive games he has played for club and country. Two smart saves either side of half time, from Kenwyne Jones and Matija Nastasic, kept City in the game and effectively earned us a point.
3) Formation change needed. Pellegrini's preferred 4-4-2 formation (or 4-2-2-2, depending on your viewpoint) isn't working. We don't have the players for the system (two natural wide players are required), and we've been outplayed in midfield by Cardiff, Hull and now Stoke. The concern is that better teams could really exploit this weakness, and a change of system is needed for the derby. I'd like to see us play 4-2-3-1, with Fernandinho and Milner (or Rodwell) holding, and Toure, Silva and Navas behind a lone striker (Aguero).
4) Garcia can't play centre half. There's almost an audible groan when the teams are announced and Javi Garcia's name appears at centre half. I appreciate that needs must at the moment because of injuries and the necessity of squad rotation, but I feel Dedryck Boyata deserves to be given a chance. Garcia didn't actually play that badly at Stoke, but as always there were a few nervous moment and he doesn't look comfortable in the role (as Tony Gale reminded us ad nauseum in his commentary). One horrible attempted clearance in the area could've led to a goal, but for a well timed challenge by Pablo Zabaleta, and Garcia's lack of confidence seems to permeate through the team. Thankfully, Vincent Kompany's imminent return should bring some much needed authority and leadership to the back line.
5) Patience needed. There are still reasons to be positive, as we are fourth in the league, have kept three clean sheets in our opening four games and have the best goal difference in the league. In addition we have been unfortunate with injuries, and with a new manager and new style of play it will take time to gel. Patience is required. However, it should be borne in mind that we have had a relatively easy start to the season and tougher fixtures lie ahead, starting on Sunday. A big improvement is required if we're to win the derby.