Stoke 0-0 City: Away day struggles show no sign of ending

Ross Kinnaird

Should we have been surprised at a draw? After all, the 0-0 scoreline was the sixth such stalemate in succession at The Britannia Stadium.

We are though used to City being the side coming away frustrated with the outcome but it was Stoke who would have felt a greater justification for being aggrieved at not taking all three points. This is not to say City were outplayed in any way, more that Stoke's performance, aligned with an under-par one from City, provided the feeling that if any side was going to break the deadlock it would have been them.

I was interested to see Stoke today given reports of them so far this season and the transition under Mark Hughes, in the process of revamping the Tony Pulis-era Stoke; more guile than graft, more flair than physique and it was a performance that pleased Hughes, saying post match that it had made City 'look ordinary'.

Stoke were clearly comfortable on the ball (the 356 attempted passes not usually matched in both games between the sides under Pulis) and the midfield area was utilised as a means of progressing to the final third as opposed to one to be bypassed and avoided at all costs.

The better chances fell to Stoke too, Jonathan Walters wasteful and Joe Hart showing a pleasing display of form given recent headlines. There were few other bright spots in City's side though. The many changes, some enforced through a growing injury list and others as a result of Manuel Pellegrini's concern over the recent internationals and forthcoming fixtures (seven games in 21 days) resulted in a disjointed performance, certainly in comparison to a more fluid, coherent Stoke side.

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There was little creativity, little penetration and as a result, little threat. The much changed forward line (including debutant Stevan Jovetic) managed just three shots on target (two from outside the box) and were restricted to shots from distance that failed to test Asimir Begovic in the Stoke goal.

The greatest concern coming out of the opening few games is that City look to have failed to address the issues that plagued their 2012/13 campaign: namely their points haul on the road. With the transition from Roberto Mancini to Pellegrini there are undoubted growing pains but it is imperative that points are picked up on a consistent basis.

Dropping five points already on the road to Cardiff and Stoke is not a measure of this requirement and although others around City have dropped points in a similar fashion there has not been (the Newcastle game aside) the confidence throughout the side that suggests that a consistent run of performances is around the corner.

Which, given the games that City face over the next month, is cause for concern.

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