Dropped points are disappointing, but a major reason for this result is the diverse commitments that Manchester City hold this spring.
In order to pace the players, rotation was necessary, but the team couldn’t click in the first minutes. Although the game ended with typical dominance of possession, City’s inability to score will cause many to question their progress this season.
Here are three things we learned:
1 - Problems to play their game
Without Raheem Sterling and David Silva, Pep Guardiola’s men struggled to work the pitch in their typical fashion.
The threat of Leroy Sané and Sterling has allowed players like Kevin De Bruyne to distribute with ease, but on Wednesday night instinctive passing and movement off the ball was less successful.
Even as the defense held off a formidable duo of Stoke City strikers, the ability of the midfield to move the match in City’s favor required the entrance of Silva.
2 - Second half was better
With Silva and De Bruyne reunited, the Blues looked more alive. They turned the game on Stoke and created far better chances than they did in the first half. The tone had been set, though, and Mark Hughes’ side was defending well.
It’s a good sign that City were able to redeem their performance, but the lack of creativity in the first half could have easily placed them in a difficult position.
3 - A lot of games in their legs
Guardiola has said all season long that rest in necessary. Despite the scrutiny surrounding their Premier League title chances, the Sky Blues are still capable of advancing to the Champions League quarterfinals and the FA Cup semifinal.
Having players like Jesús Navas and Kelechi Iheanacho to relieve other stars is essential with a schedule so filled with tough matches. In the future, there could be more regular rotation as players like Ilkay Gündogan and Gabriel Jesus allow for a more fluid approach to lineup selection.
For the remainder of this season, the City machinery will have to be powered by those already in residence at the Etihad.
Forward focus is the name of the game for the Blues. There were many lessons learned from Stoke City’s challenge at the Etihad that will help Pep Guardiola and others determine the direction of the team.
The Sky Blues maintain a strict sense of priorities: the next match. While they were not able to get all three points against Stoke, they rested key players and will be ready to face Middlesbrough and Monaco in the coming days.