PART THE FIRST: Winning Ugly
The good news-three points.
The bad news-everything else.
I've seen worse from the Citizens but not by much. Lord, what a mediocre performance in the eyes of yours truly. Mediocrity reigned in the midfield where my main man Yaya once again decided not to charge anybody unless the mood was in him (though he did better in this department than in the Barcelona match-not a compliment, that) and Merlin Silva, so majestic in the center of the pitch earlier in the week was, driven by lord knows what demons (or Pellegrini's tactics) slotted to the right along with half our team and nearly the entire population of players who just happen to play for Stoke. Arsenal exhibited more beauty and grace with their third goal today than we did in an entire match. Let that sentence soak in while you consider we were playing a team that takes to the road as well as tourists take to a Carnival Cruise Line.
And let it soak in that Stoke actually had more than one decent shot at goal. If not for Joe Hart making a couple of vital stops as part of his spring apotheosis, we could all be having a very different conversation. Which brings me to my next point-the back line. Demichelis, for better or worse, is our starting defender. I'd rather not let that soak in without objection. I'd much rather, with 12 games to play, take my chances with the younger Joleon Lescott whom last we saw was creating migraines for anyone in a Chelsea uniform who got within sniffing distance of the grass near our goal. I'd also like to know what on earth is going on with the even younger Nastasic.
A healthy Man City, in my not so humble opinion, matches up well against absolutely anybody. The only teams who could be considered clear favorites on this planet are Bayern, Barcelona and Real Madrid. Everybody else can enter a match against us pounding their chests about being underdogs. And this is why it irritates my blood pressure to no end that we continue to play down to opponents, as we have been doing off and on quite literally all season. We've got to stop that crap and stop it now.
PART THE SECOND: Striker Corps or Striker Corpses
What the hell is going on with the Dzeko/Negredo partnership? The Beast has clearly been tamed by injury; not the same player since rolling his shoulder. Dzeko appears healthy and appears to have all the touch and grace of an angry rhino. Beyond his flub from literally a yard from an open net was that his best touch all game came when he kicked the goalpost. Does that sound a mite harsh? Consider that more than any other player, Dzeko has been given chance after chance to succeed and he has yet to excel. His best match of the season-by far-was game one. It's been up and down ever since but never has he achieved that height. I wish him the best; I just wish he would play better.
PART THE THIRD: K&K Analytics
I'm frankly still learning the game tactically which is why I ask for help from others. By others, I mean specifically the redoubtable E Lectric Kompany and Marc Kets, Secretary and Treasurer of MCFC Hollywood Division (of which yours truly is a proud member). Among their observations:
KETS: Javi Garcia was brilliant after he came on, allowing Yaya, Nasri and Silva to move forward. We're starting to notice, aren't we Citizens, that the words "brilliant" and "Javi Garcia" are no longer permanent antonyms?
MORE KETS: On paper Stoke had a fairly forward thinking line up but no ambition from the manager lead to it being a siege. Should have scored more but we've gone a bit gunshy. I hate, hate, hate that we're a little gunshy these days. What happened to three, four goals a game? I miss those days. Carry on, Marc.
Pelle has to stick with Negredo for longer than the hour he's been giving him of late and we need to start playing with some width. Moment Navas came on we pulled their left back, Pieters, 5 yards wider which opened up space for Nasri to run into causing problems for Wilson and Whelan they didn't have when the pitch was narrowed.
That comment about width Marc made? That's been our problem in a nutshell. We couldn't get wide against Barcelona and that's mildly excusable what with the firm of Alba and Alves back there but this is Stoke we're talking about; getting wide against them should not have been a problem.
Now, E Lectric Kompany:
I'm not sure I can watch Negredo and Dzeko teamed together again, though I understand that against a rugby side, you need strength and size in the box. As with Barca, we didn't get the ball with height into the center often enough, and Negredo was too often invisible. Thankfully Zabaleta and Kompany were solid, and Hart made the crucial save we needed, and moving Toure up the pitch paid its usual dividends. At this point, I don't expect regression in our play, and yes, I know the side has spoiled me. But Sergio can't return soon enough -- hopefully he'll advance us. Far too difficult today.
That comment E Lectric Kompany made about width? Sounds familiar. The rest I agree with.
Kets astutely added that Jovetic going off made for some interesting tactics-we went to a 3-6-1 which freed up Kolarov to move forward and further freed up the attackers that led to my main man Yaya's game winner. It should be noted yet again that Garcia was fantastic after he came on.
PART THE FOURTH: We've got only one game--the Cap Cup final--between now and March 9th. Part of me thinks we'll heal up and burn through the rest of the schedule playing our best football. But another part of me is deeply concerned that the inconsistencies that have plagued us will never leave. Of one thing I am sure: get well soon, Sergio.
PART THE FIFTH: Poll! You know what to do.