Stoke Shouldn't Stoke Panic


It’s a bit early to panic; apparently there were callers on the Radio Manchester phone-in calling for the head of Manuel Pellegrini.

Four games into a new regime is still too soon to make a meaningful judgement on the new manager or the summer signings, but I can’t deny I’m a little worried by three of the first four performances, including the 0-0 draw at Stoke, which was a little underwhelming.

We can trot out the cliches if you like, “it’s never easy at Stoke”, “a point is a good result from there, not many teams will win at the Britannia this season” and my favourite “it’s our bogey ground”, all poppycock!

This season’s game was very different to the last few City games there, this time the Blues lacked shape and looked unsure. Stoke didn’t look as threatening as they did under Tony Pulis, and I suspect that if they’d used the route one approach they once mastered, City’s defence, with Javi Garcia as a makeshift centre back, might have crumbled. As it was Stoke still had the clearer chances and perhaps should have won.

On a pre-season stroll around the beautiful Hollingworth Lake, I bumped into a family of excited City fans who wanted to know my opinions on the new players and manager.

“I don’t have an opinion, I’ve only seen them on YouTube, judge them in the Premier League” was my honest response. They suggested I was bottling out of giving an opinion. I wasn’t, though I understood their optimism, it all looked good in theory, so who was I to dampen their enthusiasm.

As I wandered away, my wife said I should have just said what they’d wanted me to say, but I’ve always tried to be honest and fair. My mate Charlie always says to me, judge them after 10 games, great advice.

My conclusions so far are incomplete, but so far I’ve yet to see enough from the four new signings and the manager to believe that this is going to be a title winning season. There’s no doubt it’ll be a good season, the question is how good, and how long will it take for the newbies to really show what they can do and Pellegrini to work out the needs of the Premier League.

The team at Stoke seemed to be selected with the trip to Viktoria Plzen in mind, last season I felt Mancini prioritised the Premier League. I’m not a fan of prioritising.

Nastasic was my MOTM at Stoke, Pellegrini justified Garcia over Lescott because he was right footed and Lescott had a slight pain in his hamstring. Aguero was left out because he only got back from Argentina duty on Thursday and hadn’t had time to work with the team, according to the manager.

There were two great saves from Joe Hart, from Kenwyn Jones and Nastasic, I’d said Hart had had unfair criticism, I rest my case.

Next stop Plsen, let’s hope City fans will be drinking a Pils or two after a convincing victory there, and a more impressive performance.

I’ll be flying out with the team on Monday morning, I’ll give you my thoughts from the Czech Republic and a flavour of what’s its like over there before kickoff, and of course there’ll be full match commentary on BBC Radio Manchester on Tuesday night, followed by the phone-in til 11pm.

Written by Ian Cheeseman