Abject performance sees pressure grow on Pellegrini
FA Premier League
Saturday 05 December 2015, 12.45 KO
City: Hart, Sagna, Demichelis, Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernando, Fernandinho (Delph 56), Silva (Navas 62), Sterling, De Bruyne, Bony (Iheanacho 56)
Unused: Caballero, Garcia, Clichy, Humphreys
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Man of the match: Navas
City endured a wretched afternoon at the Britannia Stadium, as two goals from Marko Arnautovic condemned the Blues to their third defeat in five games with pressure growing on manager Manuel Pellegrini. The scoreline in no way flattered the hosts, and in truth the margin of victory should have been even greater. Pellegrini can rightly point to the absence of key players such as Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero, effectively the spine of his team, but he will surely be concerned by the nature of this latest defeat.
City were second best all over the pitch, and struggled to contain Stoke's attacking triumvirate of Arnautovic, Xherdan Shaqiri and Bojan Krkic. The Potters sliced through City's back line at will, with Martin Demichelis looking particularly vulnerable. This may be a season too far for the veteran centre half, and the decision to allow youngster Jason Denayer out on loan is looking increasingly unwise. Galatasaray's gain is City's loss.
Stoke took the lead after just seven minutes, when Shaqiri skipped past Fernando and Kolarov with ease, crossing for Arnautovic to score a simple tap in. Kevin De Bruyne spurned a good opportunity to equalise shortly after, but Jack Butland comfortably saved his tame effort.
Almost immediately Stoke doubled their advantage, when Shaqiri found Arnautovic with an exquisite through ball. The Austrian forward finished well past Joe Hart, and the game was effectively over as a contest after just fifteen minutes. City hadn't come back from a two goal deficit in the Premier League to win in over a decade, and there was little suggestion that they had the necessary fight and spirit here.
The Blues weren't helped by the weather, with high, swirling winds inside the Britannia Stadium, but the home side coped far better with the adverse conditions. Arnautovic, Shaqiri and Krkic all spurned good opportunities to extend Stoke's lead, whilst at the other end Butland was rarely tested. City's misery was compounded when Fernando was forced off with a hamstring injury, leaving the Blues to complete the afternoon with ten men, as all three substitutions had been used.
With rumours that Pep Guardiola will swap Munich for Manchester next summer, the pressure is growing on Pellegrini and he desperately needs his injury hit squad to find form ahead of the busy festive period.