Manchester City banished their Stoke hoodoo as they comprehensively beat them 4-1 after braces from Aguero and Nolito on either side of a Bojan penalty. With the familiar windy conditions in full effect, the players took time to settle down with passes mis-hit and initial difficulty in controlling the ball. But Aguero soon avenged his penalty misses from midweek and comfortable dispatched his spot-kick after Ryan Shawcross was controversially adjudged to have committed a foul.
Stoke fans were still in their protest mode when Aguero’s perfectly glanced header nestled into the bottom corner from an inch-perfect De Bruyne freekick. Bojan cut down the lead to one goal via a penalty after another harsh decision by Mike Dean on Sterling. But City had too much quality as they held on through a pressure situation and finally killed off the game with a Nolito brace.
Here are three talking points from the game.
PEP GUARDIOLA WILLING TO ADAPT
Pep set out his team in an unconventional 4-1-4-1 formation in the previous two matches where the two full-backs continually went infield and took up the central defensive berths when in possession. While this facilitated a quick counter, it also left open spaces on the flanks for teams to counter themselves.
Anticipating the fatigue stemming from 3 games in quick succession along with the difficult weather conditions and City’s past record at the Bet365 Stadium, Guardiola was much more conservative in his approach, thus allowing the players to use their past experience to negate the adversities in the match.
STOKE NEED SHAQIRI AND A STRIKER!
It is becoming quite evident after Stoke lacked the necessary bite in attack for a second game in succession. The absence of the enigmatic Shaqiri further compounded matters and they could not exploit the tired legs of the City team in the latter stages. Stoke were focused and tried their best but the missing jigsaw in the final third might cost them in the long run, if they don’t add to their forward line soon.
SERGIO AGUERO VS ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC?
The two strikers from Manchester have flown off the blocks. The stakes have never been higher and if the early signs are anything to go by it will be a two-horse race for the Golden Boot this time around. Sergio Aguero scored his 8th goal against Stoke in 7 matches and has already scored 3 goals in the League along with a hat-trick in the Champions League qualifier. Aguero has to remain fit and will be the most important player for City over the course of the season.