Man City’s Complacency Is Their Downfall


Man City 0 – Stoke City 1

Well…that was not how this was supposed to turn out. I’ll admit that I sometimes have reservations when it comes to Man City playing Stoke, until I notice we’re playing at the Etihad and then all is well in my footballing world. Today has proven that Manchester City are, unfortunately, not invincible at home.

Losing at home to a well set-up Chelsea side last season was forgivable given the quality of the side Man City were facing, but this time around, the game didn’t come down to similar quality – City just couldn’t score any of the chances they made, while Stoke scored one of the few chances they had.

The fact that Zabaleta was replaced by Sagna caused me some immediate concern. Pablo Zabaleta is a consistent shield for City’s defence and his place in the team sheet is a source of comfort in even the most dire situations. While Vincent Kompany can occasionally break his world class form with a mistake or two, Pablo rarely puts a foot wrong. But, after all, Sagna needs to get a game at some point, so today was as good a day as any, right?

Sagna will make a decent addition to City’s impressive team of back-ups, but for City fans, he’ll never be able to replace the tenacious and passionate Pablo Zabaleta.

Should the nik-nak haired Frenchman not have replaced arguably one of the world’s best full backs, his performance would have been satisfactory; yet this was not the case, and in the back of my mind, every misplaced Sagna pass and empty space on the right brought up images of Zabba and his immense work rate, with which Sagna sadly could not compare. The main aspect of his game missing in comparison to the Argentinian is his runs off the ball. Zabaleta is more than happy to bomb up and down the wing all day, whereas it is clear Sagna is still in more reserved Wenger-mode.

Sagna is more than enough as a back up however, with City fans all hoping for Micah Richards to leave for his own good. He’s been a true servant to the club and he deserves better than we can currently give him; I think I speak for all City fans when I wish him incredibly good luck wherever he may end up (though after spending so long at the Etihad/Eastlands, I can imagine it will be hard for him to leave).

City’s downfall today was not Sagna at right back – it was an almost team-wide sense of complacency and lack of clinicality up top. It may seem strange to say that Man City – a side with the likes of Sergio Aguero, Stevan Jovetic and Yaya Toure starting – had a problem finishing chances. But that was exactly the case. The complacency was nothing new however; almost every loss or draw last season was due to Man City underestimating their opponents, not being outplayed. Cardiff, Sunderland, Wigan, Stoke – all of these sides lined up against an arrogant City side and came out with points.

City’s tendency to ‘rest on their laurels’ from the start against smaller teams is always translated through their hobbling talisman, Yaya Toure, who today (like every game since Man City won the title) was slow and frankly didn’t look bothered, as if engaging in midfield battles with the likes of Charlie Adam and Steven N’Zonzi was below him. Sometimes I marvel at how a team with Man City’s star power isn’t affected by inflated egotism or lazy play. Today, I take it back somewhat; it turns out Man City are still as susceptible to complacency as any side of their calibre, which needs to change fast. In some games, teams can get away with pure talent only, but if much more is needed, City are in for problems if something isn’t changed.

in games where a bit of heart is needed to get all three points, only a few players (Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta, Fernando) will provide it.

City’s careless display translated to a poor attacking display. For long periods, Man City’s midfielders seemed perfectly content passing from side to side, with no intent on breaking through Stoke’s 10 man back line with a risky ball or two. Silva’s usually the man to sneak the ball through a few players, but today he just couldn’t quite do the job. Nasri tried once or twice to trouble Begovic, but he was otherwise pretty non existent. They did what they could with what Man City created through Stoke’s thick back line, but Aguero and Jovetic didn’t show the attacking threat they exhibited against Liverpool. Jovetic still looks a bit rushed, like he’s trying too hard to do something special, rather than just shoot or make an easier pass. City’s poor attacking display doesn’t mean they didn’t create any chances, but too many were half chances in crowded boxes.

Kun Aguero couldn’t quite make the impact he made on Monday against Liverpool against Stoke today, but I’m still confident he’ll not only come good, but come great.

Fair play to Stoke: although not playing with flair or pzazz, they played the game well and got their reward. Their solid defending gave them a break, which, thanks to some weak Fernandinho defending, brought summer signing Mame Diouf through on goal. After having a blinder against Liverpool, Joe Hart let a weak shot through his legs, giving the papers a nice bit of bait to use against him. Hart is consistently proving he is English – by being inconsistent. Hopefully this is just a blip in Pellegrini’s road to the title, and gives his side the metaphorical kick-up-the-backside they need to be consistently great.