Stoke vs Manchester City: 5 Things We Learned
Manchester City's 1-0 victory over Stoke didn't upset the odds.
A surprisingly empty Brittania Stadium played host to an encounter that simmered with drama. The visitors dominated throughout, creating plenty of opportunities to take the lead. David Silva came close with a curled shot off the post in the first half, while Pablo Zabaleta won the game with five minutes left.
A deserved victory for Roberto Mancini's men served up a number of lessons. What have we discovered this time round? Let's take a look.
Sergio Aguero's Return to Full Fitness Can't Come Soon Enough
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Sergio Aguero replaced Aleksandar Kolarov with 27 minutes left. The Argentinian cut through Stoke City's defence numerous times, providing an incisiveness that Mancini's side were previously lacking.
His links with David Silva took the emphasis away from Edin Dzeko—who continued to hustle with decent runs—and allowed the Premier League champions to cut through Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth.
Either way, Aguero's presence is needed and could get his colleague scoring once more.
Roberto Mancini Needs to Give Scott Sinclair a Chance
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James Milner is an important Manchester City player. He works tremendously hard for the team and is responsible when tracking back.
Against Stoke, the Englishman's other qualities were tested. Crossing opportunities didn't come about often—but when they did—Milner didn't deliver. He looked leggy going into the final third of the match, summed up by a clumsy yellow card.
Although City added a burst of pace with Aguero's arrival, this was the perfect opportunity for Scott Sinclair to make an appearance.
Stoke's counter attacks were sloppy and lacked any cutting edge. An extra dose of speed could have seen the Potters off with greater ease. Considering Milner's delivery on the day, Sinclair's ability to cross may have aided City's cause.
If Sinclair doesn't get a chance in these matches, when will Mancini pick him?
Stoke Need to Dip into the January Transfer Market
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Stoke's predictability is no longer working.
We know Tony Pulis is going to set up with one behemoth forward. We know how Jonathan Walters will operate between the midfield and striker. We all know the defence will mop up long balls.
The problem is, everyone knows this. In recent weeks, Stoke's excellent defensive record has been undone because managers are setting their side up to combat the aforementioned tactical structure.
Replacing Kenwyne Jones with Peter Crouch is an acceptable move, but Pulis needs more options. Cameron Jerome isn't consistent enough to rely on from the bench. Suggestions that Stoke are ready to offload Jones seem ridiculous right now (via The Daily Mail).
Instead, Pulis needs to bring in a different type of forward to change things up (Michael Owen, I'm ignoring you).
Is the Loss a Blessing in Disguise for Stoke?
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Recent form suggests Stoke need to focus on the Premier League. One win in six isn't good enough for a team that has lost momentum since 2013 began.
Is the FA Cup loss a blessing in disguise? At this stage, certainly. An extended run in any cup competition has a tendency to lessen league progress for small squads. The FA Cup is a luxury for Stoke, not a formality.
It's time for the club to tackle Premier League success without any distraction. One objective should allow players to focus with greater intensity, thus improving results.
Manchester City's FA Cup Run Is Important to Their Season
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Make no mistake about it: City want to win the FA Cup.
Mancini's starting 11 was cleverly constructed. He allowed individuals such as Joe Hart and Matija Nastasic valuable time to rest. At the same time, the inclusion of many first team players indicated the City manager wishes to replicate the FA Cup victory of 2011.
This could really work for the Etihad side. If City remain in the competition they can continue to rest key players in the build-up to important league fixtures. This also ensures the squad will remain competitive, allowing many individuals to highlight why they should considered for a starting role.
A lack of European football may frustrate City fans. Right now, the focus on domestic matters could result in a greater trophy haul at the end of the season.
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