Pellegrini plays it pretty ugly – MAN CITY 1 STOKE CITY 0

It was frustrating and laboured, it lacked inspiration and flair, it wasn’t pretty it touched upon ugly…but it was winning and sometimes that’s all that matters.

It was huff and puff instead of zip and zest, one goal not five, six or seven, but whichever way it was packaged it was a means to an end and a route to three invaluable points that could see Manchester City crowned Premier League champions in May.

Long afternoon - Nasri and Co had to battle against the likes of Charlie Adams in a tough encounter  Courtesy @MCFC

Long afternoon – Nasri and Co had to battle against the likes of Charlie Adams in a tough encounter Courtesy @MCFC

The Etihad faithful agonised for 70 minutes as a seemingly impenetrable wall of red and white stripes stood tall against a usually slick and up tempo wave of sky blue attacking flair.

Nursing a Champions League hangover, City were devoid of their usual verve and vitality on home soil as Stoke dug in, manned the barricades and threatened to stem the free flowing ‘liquid engineering’ football, normally produced by Manuel Pellegrini’s side.

Pre-match, ex-City boss Mark Hughes had said that he didn’t bear a grudge against his former employers. Anyone who believed him will also testify to the existence of the Tooth Fairy and Father Christmas.

Hughes would have been deflated when Stoke playmaker Charlie Adams smashed a venomous 25-yard drive destined for City’s net, only to see Joe Hart produce a superb fingertip save.

Off day - The Beast was far from his best against a massed Stoke defence  Courtesy @MCFC

Off day – The Beast was far from his best against a massed Stoke defence Courtesy @MCFC

City’s first half highlight was a slick move that saw Silva link with Negredo, before the Beast set up Edin Dzeko, who cracked a low long range shot agonisingly inches wide of Asmir Begovic’s post.

City were misfiring and stuttering as their intricate passing movement was continually thwarted by a resolute and massed Stoke defence. Denied space and width, it was irritating as attack after attack dribbled away into nothingness.

The home support, spoon-fed caviar football at the Etihad all season, were instead, sampling cod roe and crabsticks as City – Silva apart – lacked invention. Even Merlin isn’t beyond reproach, as he and his team mates seem to want to walk the ball into the opponent’s net. For goodness sake SHOOT more often!

Best effort - Dzeko hit a curling 25 yard shot - City's best effort of a frustrating first half  Courtesy @MCFC

Best effort – Dzeko hit a curling 25 yard shot – City’s best effort of a frustrating first half Courtesy @MCFC

With 42 goals from 12 previous games, it’s fair to say the average home attendances of 47,100, have been treated to something of a goal fest since August.  Having netted on 117 occasions this season, the expectations of City’s fans are somewhat high, albeit they have been incredibly spoilt.

Only Barcelona and Chelsea had shut out the Sky Blues at home, and it was with an air of growing disbelief that the well drilled corps from the Potteries looked as if they were to be the third team to force a score line of  ‘Manchester City nil…’

Thankfully it wasn’t to be and, as much as Pellegrini has been hailed as an astute and cool operator, it owed more to good fortune than good judgement that City edged ahead.

Substitute Stevan Jovetic lasted just 12 minutes before departing with a hamstring injury. The man from Montenegro with a rather disturbing medical record since hitting Manchester, had replaced a rather neutered Negredo after 56 minutes.

Proper Charlie - Stoke's Charlie Adam's has been earning rave reviews recently but he reverted to type when scything Nasri down  Courtesy @MCFC

Proper Charlie – Stoke’s Charlie Adam’s has been earning rave reviews recently but he reverted to type when scything Nasri down Courtesy @MCFC

The Beast has lost his bite in recent weeks but it was a surprising move considering the abject offerings of Dzeko on the day. Navas had come on in place of Fernandinho as Pellegrini sought to broaden the attack and get at Stoke via the flanks.

Prior to departing, Jovetic unleashed a stinging strike that had rebounded off Begovic’s chest, but a flat footed Dzeko, displaying the predatory instincts of a sloth on valium, had made no attempt to anticipate a loose ball, rebound or ricochet.

Goal provider - AK47 fired in the assist for Yaya's ice breaker  Courtesy @MCFC

Goal provider – AK47 fired in the assist for Yaya’s ice breaker Courtesy @MCFC

Javi Garcia came on as the Montenegrin headed down the tunnel for treatment, and, as a consequence Garcia’s presence immediately released Yaya Toure for attacking duties.

When Samir Nasri dinked a pass wide left to allow AK47 Kolarov to fire in a low cross, it was the Ivorian colossus who managed to ‘re-arrange’ his feet to be able to meet the ball and effectively pass it under Begovic, before it bobbled into the net.

Blessed relief - Yaya broke the stalemate on 70 minutes  Courtesy @MCFC

Blessed relief – Yaya broke the stalemate on 70 minutes Courtesy @MCFC

Hallelujah, 1-0 and Manuel Pellegrini noticeably cheek-blowing with relief in his technical area. Had it not been for Jovetic’s misfortune, Yaya may still have been lying deep behind the frontline.

City spent a reputed £30m on Fernandinho and £16m on Javi Garcia, both categorised as defensive ‘holding’ midfielders. Roberto Mancini converted Yaya from a holding player into one of the most potent and unstoppable marauding attacking midfield players in the world, so why OH WHY is Yaya so consistently deployed as the defensive midfielder in City’s starting XI?

Pellegrini now commands massive respect, faith and trust from the overwhelming majority of City fans, but it both perplexes and puzzles when it comes to Yaya.

Everybody – everybody – knows that City are at their most effective playing at a fast tempo and Yaya on the front foot, so why do we have to witness him lumbering around, playing square meaningless passes at the halfway line?

Get in! - Yaya turns away to get the party started  Courtesy @MCFC

Get in! – Yaya turns away to get the party started Courtesy @MCFC

On his day Yaya is not only an iconic City talisman, he is a world beater, but twice yesterday he did a disturbingly good impression of older brother Kolo, in giving the ball away to an opponent in a dangerous area.

He still won the Man of the Match honours which reflects the paucity of City’s overall showing.

Quick to praise and laud City at every opportunity, it is also appropriate and not a witchhunt to highlight areas of deep and ongoing concern, in a season that has delivered so many positives – a season that could be yet be the best in the club’s history.

The area of concern is Edin Dzeko. The Bosnian, always amiable and seemingly liked by team mates and coaching staff, is an enigma.

Edin the enigma - Dzeko does score important goals for City but misses far too many chances  Courtesy @MCFC

Edin the enigma – Dzeko does score important goals for City but misses far too many chances Courtesy @MCFC

His goals-to-games ratio stacks up favourably, but not being a roaring statistician myself, what is Edin’s ratio based on chances and successful goal conversion rates? He is far more profligate than prolific and yesterday was more than just a bad day at the office.

The miss from three yards in front of a gaping goal, when he ‘attacked’ the ball with his right foot and defended it on behalf of Stoke with his left, absolutely beggared belief. Many in the crowd were staggered he actually hit the post when he vented his frustration after the howler, he could so easily have missed.

For a strapping striker he is far too easily dispossessed, he often doesn’t get off the ground to contest headers and his passing has the finesse of a high velocity bullet.

He isn’t without his merits of course, he has and does score vital goals, but at a cost of £27m, big wages and with the backing of a highly respected manager, Dzeko must do better, much better.

Perplexed Pellegrini - Manuel must wonder what's happened to his goal happy strikers  Courtesy @MCFC

Perplexed Pellegrini – Manuel must wonder what’s happened to his goal happy strikers Courtesy @MCFC

The perception is that he isn’t bothered by his persistent shortcomings. His body language is ‘wrong’ and he simply doesn’t work hard enough on too many occasions.

People will say Dzeko is an easy target for criticism and why doesn’t Negredo get it in the neck for poor recent performances. Undoubtedly ‘The Beast’ has had a dip in form and Jovetic is as reliable as a 20-year old Vauxhall Cavalier on a sub-zero winter morning, but both are getting their first taste of the Premier League.

Dzeko is now into his fourth campaign with City and he could have achieved so much more.

There are those who think it treasonable to criticise a City player. It doesn’t help anybody to berate a player in sky blue during a game, but there has to be accountability at some stage. Nobody is suggesting Edin wants to perform poorly, but he can definitely show more effort and physicality even on days when he can’t hit a cow’s backside with a banjo.

118 - A solitary strike, City's 118th of the season was enough to see off Stoke City  Courtesy @MCFC

118 – A solitary strike, City’s 118th of the season was enough to see off Stoke City Courtesy @MCFC

Thank goodness Sergio is nearly fit and God help us if he gets injured again between now and the end of the season.

But for all the adverse comment City still won a very difficult fixture against a Mark Hughes ‘inspired’ – I use the word advisedly – team that came with the sole intention of getting a draw.

City now embark on three cup competitions as the priority – in the eyes of many City fans – of the Premier League, takes a backseat until March 15.

Welcome return - Sergio should be back for Wembley to kickstart City's attack  Courtesy @MCFC

Welcome return – Sergio should be back for Wembley to kickstart City’s attack Courtesy @MCFC

We can only hope that with three or four games in hand City will hold an advantage over Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool, rather than having to win all the matches simply to keep up.

Even if that were the case, we need to believe in Manuel Pellegrini and hope that the return of Sergio Aguero will once again spark City’s sharpshooters into overdrive.



By David Walker



Read But Never Red was delighted to recently report the positive outcome of trumped up charges against Armani Sheku Kamara – a prominent figure in football in the impoverished nation of Sierra Leone.

Armani – known as ‘Mr Man City’ in his native land was acquitted of any wrong doing after a traumatic eight month ordeal, during which he wondered if he would be jailed, even though he knew he was innocent of any crime.

Etihad calling - Armani could be on his way to Manchester soon, courtesy of Tony Griffiths (left) of the OSC and donations from generous City fans.

Etihad calling – Armani could be on his way to Manchester soon, courtesy of Tony Griffiths (left) of the OSC and donations from generous City fans.

Prominent figures in the Manchester City Official Supporters Club launched an appeal to raise funds to bring Armani over to Manchester to see City play before the end of the season, and hopefully see Manuel Pellegrini’s side lift some silverware. Fundraising is going well and if you wish to make a contribution you can do so by clicking the link




  1. February 23, 2014  2:55 pm by DOUGLAS HENSHAW Reply

    Good read again Dave. We do seem to be stuttering a bit in games hopefully the return of Kun will change things him & the beast had struck up a great partnership before injury halted it. Dezko what can I say hes a blue so will never slag him of in a game. But he just doesn't seem to be able to find the net as often as he should & sad to say it could cost us.Totally agree with the shoot on site I would be a rich man if had a £1 for every time I shouted shoot during a match. But its 3 pts at the end of the day that might be vital.

    • February 23, 2014  3:02 pm by David Walker Reply

      Agree Doug - hate it when people abuse rather than criticise our own players. However, I can't be doing with self righteous individuals who almost forbid criticism of City players. Constructive criticism is fine.

  2. February 23, 2014  5:30 pm by stuart reed Reply

    And that pretty well sums it up. 3 points against a team who were well organised & had ten at the back. We were poor but managed to break em down. The best move of the game ended with the worst finish of the season - we all want Dzeko to succeed, but yesterday has to have been his worst performance for a while. What's worse is that when its going wrong for him he doesn't pick himself up and pitch in.If he was running back and working hard his performances would be more forgivable. Not to appear as targeting him but Negredo has been poor for a while now but overall has had a good season & gets stuck in. The positives were Nasri and Silva who worked hard & Garcia looked ok again when he came on.

    • February 23, 2014  6:35 pm by David Walker Reply

      Agreed in full. Thanks for feedback.

  3. February 23, 2014  10:28 pm by asher Reply

    Great read, I'm an avid follower of a few man City blogs and I must say this is by far the most down to earth!!! I do agree somewhat with the whole dzeko situation, but I came to the conclusion that the fact he's getting so many opportunities per game is probably why hes so popular with managers. It's just unfortunate that he's not a very fan friendly type of player. We just need to plant him thirty yards out and tell him not to move (not that he moves much anyway!!!) and release one of his cannon ball shots every now and then to scare the opposition, judging from the last couple of seasons he is far better at just purring his foot through it than dainty tap ins. I do think there is hope for him yet though, fingers crossed!!

    • February 26, 2014  7:23 am by David Walker Reply

      Thankyou for reading & commenting. I am always supportive of City players at games & would never give verbal abuse. Dzeko has his good days & has pretty good stats throughout his career. The frustration, rather like Adebayor - is that you can see that they could & should be capable of delivering more on many an occasion. Let's hope Edin puts this horror game behind him & bags another dozen goals before season's end.

  4. February 24, 2014  12:54 am by Toby Teasdale Reply

    One monkey on your back is bad enough, four must be unbearable.

    With the team he picked MP was probably trying to show us he still had confidence in those who played Barca, particularly Di Michelis. I understand why he did it, but (IMO) he was wrong. What we got was an 'after the lord mayor's show display.

    He might have used fresh/fresher legs and kept Kompany, Yaya and Silva ready on the bench if needed. Particularly as Garcia, impressive against Chelsea, would have been at home marking the dipstick formerly known as 'Timberrrrrr'.

    Yaya reminds me of a Dino Ferrari a boss of mine once owned. It spluttered and stuttered running around town and needed a regular burn up on the M6 to get it firing on all cylinders.

    Blues will find it hard going should they turn up with the same attitude against Sunderland (who will need no motivation). If my greyhound was racing at 'Wembley dogs' this weekend (sadly no more). it would be on a diet of raw steak and Bob Martins from hereon.

    • February 24, 2014  6:00 am by David Walker Reply

      Good points well made. If we haven't learned lesson from the Wembley defeat by Wigan we will be in trouble against Sunderland. Like you I thought we'd see Milner, Lescott, Garcia etc against Stoke to ease the physical fatigue & any mental tiredness.

  5. February 24, 2014  3:36 am by Simon Dear Reply

    It's inevitable that we are going to have games that we grind out results .. And matches after Champs league games are notoriously difficult, I still think we played some decent stuff at times the 5 man move in the first half that finished with Dzeko curling his shot just wide was probably the move of the match , but I agree he needs more chances than any other striker we have to score, and with added aggression to his game would improve his all round play.
    However, he got winner against Palace in a similar game so lets not be too critical of our Edin , he might still end up a blue hero this season . We are after all bookies favourites in every domestic completion ( just checking that .. Yes we are ) so in what could be an unprecedented season lets get behind those blue boys and give them as much support whilst out there on the field .. Yes we can all be critics after but when it matters most let's try & put those feelings to one side as it will eventually have a detrimental effect on the team.
    Just one other foot note in which was another great read , Iam suprised you didn't mention the master tactician MH plan to unhinge us by turning us around after winning the toss .. Must admit we all had a good chuckle ., "is that the best he can do " we said .

    • February 24, 2014  6:03 am by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Simon - you're more observant than me regarding Hughes being a victorious tosser.

      • February 24, 2014  11:16 am by Toby Teasdale Reply

        That was really annoying as I have paid for my seat purely to see the majority of goals scored in the second half.

        Whilst it didn't do the Welsh wazzock any good, it certainly confused Edin. In the second half he didn't know whether to shoot or block so, to be on the safe side, he did both!

  6. February 24, 2014  3:43 am by Simon Dear Reply

    PS . See you at Wembley . Come on you blues one of three to get in the bag !

    • February 24, 2014  6:04 am by David Walker Reply

      See if we can find two minutes to meet up & do a pre-match handshake but no tossing!

  7. February 24, 2014  7:28 am by Simon Dear Reply

    Definitely .. I will tweet you !!

  8. February 25, 2014  10:20 am by Graham Ward Reply

    A struggle, but a win, none the less. Needed, as well, given Chelsea's last gasp win, and Arsenal's cruise.
    That was a poor miss by Dzeko as well, there's been a few of those types around the PL lately!

  9. February 26, 2014  8:41 am by blue boy Reply

    Nothing to do with this thread dave, but did you see how the tv pundits turned the united loss on its head last night , saying the premier league ain't all that and all the English clubs have not fared well in Europe in the past week. They forget to mention the other two teams faced the might of Europe not the QPR of Europe. How this media Circus goes on? It's beyond me.

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