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The Ped Report - City 3-0 Stoke City

The Ped Report -   City 3-0 Stoke City

With the exception of 1000 unsold away tickets, the Etihad was again packed to the rafters for the visit of FA Cup Finalists, Stoke City last night. 46321 braved wet and cold conditions to see if Mancini could celebrate two years in charge, effectively where it all began, against Stoke City.

Stoke have become a resilient Premier League side and even the teams at the top do not relish playing against them, especially when their 4-4-2 changes to 4-6-0 as it looked to do for the first half hour or so. For his part Mancini shuffled his pack in masterly fashion, selecting an eleven to do the job and ensure that his boys would sit proudly at the top of the league at Christmas for the first time since 1929.

Ahead of the match and, as is always the case at Christmas, the Club remembered it`s lost and loved and this year, of course, it included Neil Young and Mike Doyle from the playing perspective. The silence quickly turned to applause and even cheers when those two names were read out.

It was also noted that the advertising boards on the Colin Bell Stand side looked somewhat closer to the touchline tonight. I wonder why?

And so to football. An odd looking line-up, looked like a ground attack from City, no doubt designed to confuse Stoke`s big lads at the back and to cause them discomfort. Aguero, Nasri and Silva were to provide the focus, with Johnson the width and Barry and Yaya the midfield resistance. It worked pretty much according to plan.
For their part Stoke left the wide players who were either injured or pegged back at Wembley on the sidelines and to an extent this isolated Jones and Walters up top. Shawcross was also unavailable due to suspension, whereas, for City, Clichy was back from suspension.

The first time City got the ball you could see Stoke`s intent. It was a gap-fill exercise from the ranks of red and white stripes as they fell into line to deny City space. From the first time he got the ball you could also see Johnson`s intent as he set about trying to open up the Stoke defence and get himself noticed again. His first cut was to cut inside and send in a howitzer which hit the bar.

Despite Stoke`s massed ranks at the bank and shortage of ambition up front, City got into triangular mode with Silva and Nasri picking passes and Aguero popping up all over the front line like a jack-in-the-box, testing and tormenting at every turn. This man has amazing strength for one so small and will not be bullied, no matter how big his opponents are. Unlucky in two recent matches it was perhaps fitting that on the half hour, the magician squeezed the ball through to Yaya who hit it goalward. Kompany confused the defenders and forced Sorensen to push the ball out to Aguero who gleefully turned it into the net.

The dyke in front of Stoke was broken and their game plan crumbling all around them. It was also fitting that six minutes later, as City pressed, a pass from Clichy towards Silva along the inside left channel looked be running dead, when for some reason Whitehead having surreptitiously nudged Silva out of the way, decided to try to clear his lines rather that get his team a goal kick. His clearance ran to Adam Johnson. He took one step left and leathered a curling shot, trade mark style into the bottom corner. "Remember me, Roberto?" Sorensen didn`t have a prayer.

As the possession stats piles up in City`s favour, the Blues strolled their way to half time two goals in front.

It was pretty much business as usual as City took the field for the second half. Starving Stoke of the ball the Blues went into pretty pattern mode leaving many a beleaguered potter in their wake as Stoke chased shadows. The ground attack moved fluidly and interchanged rapidly leaving Stoke wondering who they were marking and why.

Aguero twice set his sights with an edge of the box shot well saved by Sorensen, and a similar one from inside the box, but it was into City`s prime scoring time that the lead increased with as sweet a move as you will see anywhere in the world.

The unheralded Gareth Barry won the ball inside the Stoke half and, as the defence backed off and the midfield remained static, the door opened up for a pass to Nasri wide on the right. With the defenders still retreating and in disarray, Nasri sent a daisy cutter along the six yard line to the opposite side of the goal where the unmarked Aguero turned it into the net, after 56 minutes.

And that was that. City looked as though they could score any time they turned up the heat. Stoke looked totally outclassed. Whatever the endgame stat attack told us about possession, it did not tell us that most of Stoke`s possession was in their own half. I was surprised to find that they actually had two shots, none of which were on target, as Joe had to keep himself warm for most of this match.

It was time to ring the changes. First Micah headed for the changing rooms carrying a knock, then Silva went for a well-earned rest to be replaced by, you guessed it, Santa Claus Balotelli. Finally Gareth Barry who once again had an extraordinary match made way for Milner.

The fun and games began in Block 111 as the Blue Mooners sang "Let`s pretend you`ve had a shot" followed by "Shots on goal, you`re having a laugh" and finally "You`ve had a throw-in, now clear off home" or words to that effect.

The game ended with a needless caution for Johnson for jersey tugging and Mario trying so hard to trouble the scoreboard writers.
Stoke looked well out of their depth in this match. Intent on keeping themselves compact they didn`t really give Jones and Walters a chance as they were starved of service with Etherington and Pennant looking on from the bench. They were dominated and over run in midfield where Toure and Barry were totally in charge as they moved the ball quickly to Silva, Aguero and Nasri, all of which were live wires and all of whose appetite for movement, running and goal attempts did not abate all evening.

If muscle was needed at the back, Kompany and Lescott were rock solid and a tackle by Kompany on Walters early on needed to be timed to perfection and it duly was. For his sheer energy and goalscoring alone Aguero had to be man of the match but there were excellent performances from Barry and the rampaging Yaya in the midfield. Barry has become king of the dirty work and almost got himself a goal late on. He has managed to stave off the challenge from Nigel de Jong who each week now sits on the bench as Mancini seeks positivity.

Yaya is a frightening proposition, hunting around the midfield, always showing for the ball and doing something with it when he gets it. Never one for an early shower, he will be missed more than most when he heads with his brother to the African Cup of Nations, next month.

The enigma that is Johnson is also stepping up to the plate. His seasonal reminder to his manager was timely as City gets set to embark upon a season-defining month with key matches against Liverpool, three, Tottenham and of course a small team from Salford. There will be matches for everyone in January as Mancini will need to keep the squad fresh especially if City ends Stretford`s domestic season by eliminating them from the FA Cup.

City are in good shape and assuming they can offload some dead wood in January, one or two more names could be inbound. I don`t suspect it will be Messi or Cavani, but cover in midfield for Yaya and maybe another full back could be priorities.

Two clean sheets in a row have stopped the rot at the back. Even City`s defence can`t give chances to a team that can`t attack!

Over the weekend we saw Barcelona take Santos apart in the World Club Challenge. If Barca are playing the best club football in the world, the second best at this time is being played by our very own….Manchester City!

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Writer:Tranmere Loyal
Date:Thursday December 22 2011
Time: 10:21AM

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OMG - 3-0 home win to Stoke and you think you're the second best team in the world. Please give me a break. Man City fans are just so cocky and arrogant these days.... Playing well, yes but mentally when it really matters the team is weak - exemplified by your Champions League exit. Favourites for the league sure and playing Stoke at home will be no problem for a team like yours. But you have to question whether the team can stay mentally fit and last for the long haul. Ignore the United result as once Fletcher got sent off, with the line up Mancini went with you boys were in set up on the counter and the young players at United were naive and got what they deserved. But the first acid test since that game, away to Chelsea your team failed - And Chelsea are not a decent team this year. If you have a few key players getting injured (Silva/Kompany) then the heat will be on and you know the media will only be dying to stir it up in the papers. I just keep thinking of Real Madrid, all the best players and the massive ego's and they still managed to under achieve...
22/12/2011 12:02:00
Think what you like. This is not based upon beating Stoke 3-0 it is based upon the fact that we are top of the league and whoever you support is not. Whoever you support is not playing the football that City is playing and whoever the Stretfords put out wouldn't have lived with City that day. Fletcher? What difference does he make to anything? And as for Chelsea we all know that we were cheated out of a nailed on penalty which would have put the match beyond the pensioners (in every sense). They got lucky. It is amazing that Silva goes off every week with his ankle in ice because he gets kicked all over the field. But he bounces back up and is ready for business again next week. And as for the Champions League, these pages have told you..the next English team to win the CL will be MANCHESTER CITY. You heard it first in The Ped Report.
22/12/2011 12:10:00
Oh ....and we onlyplayed in first gear last night
22/12/2011 12:11:00
Batigol - who would you say is playing better club football than City at this moment? Aside from Barca of course. Fletcher wasn't sent off, Evans was for denying us a two goal lead in a game we were dominating at 11v11. Was Anfield not a test? Was an unbeaten Newcastle not a test? Spurs at WHL? We keep hearing every week that this is our first real test but we keep passing them. The Chelsea result was the only blip in the league and we bounced back with 6 points from our next 6. This isn't arrogance my friend, this is realism.
22/12/2011 12:27:00
We did just play in first gear yet still managed to amass a total of 924 successful passes in the game. Outstanding.
22/12/2011 12:41:00
Great report Ped :-) The match statistics for this game are simply overwhelming: Possession: 76% vs. 24 %; Total passes: 924 vs. 280; Shots on target: 11 vs 0; etc...... I don't think I've ever seen a match as one sided as this one - complete and utter domination! Frankly, we are not yet Barcelona, nor Real Madrid for that matter. I don't think any City fans really believed we would win the CL in the first attempt, and I don't think City fans generally think we are the 2nd best team in the world...but to say that we're probably the best team in the Country at the moment seems pertinent enough though :-)
Blue ponderer
22/12/2011 13:00:00
In Reality ts hard to see where City will drop points this season having already played some tricky away games. Fair dues boys top of the league is deserved merry Christmas one and all
22/12/2011 13:22:00
Cheers Nickster - now we just need your side to drop a few points and we'll be laughing. Happy Christmas.
22/12/2011 13:36:00
Fair play nickster, Happy Christmas mate.
22/12/2011 13:41:00
Pedmachine - I think Silva is brilliant, don't get me wrong, he's a beautiful football and plays the game like it should. As for the penalty - yea nailed on and that would have put you 2-0 up, but you have to accept that this happens nearly every week in the premier league to you have to take the rough with the smooth - Chelsea were better for 70minutes - end of. Nice agreement regarding Man City winning the CL - very compelling and informative.
22/12/2011 13:56:00
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