Mancini serves notice that all-out attack is off menu

Manchester City 2 Stoke City 0

"He comes from Italy, has pasta for his tea..." runs one of the new anthems to Roberto Mancini which issued around Eastlands late on Saturday afternoon. You imagine that City's new manager, with the elegantly tailored overcoat and suavely draped Manchester City scarf, goes in for something more refined of an evening, but if this first exposition of his football principles is anything to go by then the sentiment is accurate enough. There will be fewer gastronomic delights from now on.

Chief executive Garry Cook, whose grim face next to chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak told the story of his week, had reasons to feel the trauma had been worth it. From City's catenaccio defensive tactics at the end to a shrewd, early tactical move after the midfield begun so stutteringly – shifting Robinho back to the left side of a 4-3-3 with Martin Petrov out right – it is clear that the A4 sheet of paper Mancini kept whipping from the breast pocket of his overcoat was there for good reason.

But the statistic which told the story of what Manchester City are perhaps about to become flashed up on the scoreboard at the interval. A first half of 66 per cent possession elicited just two shots and though they happened to be goals, the thrill has followed Mark Hughes on the road out of east Manchester.

Mancini clenched a fist and disappeared down the tunnel but to observe him after the match, explaining in his faltering English that the "first half was good and the second so-so" – and then to remember how Hughes would march in to his press conferences still breathless from one of those many six-goal occasions his side had just contributed to – was enough to make the heart ache. Cook might have increased his chances of a top-four finish but he has added to the homogeneity of the Premier League, too.

Doubtless, he will point to City's first clean sheet in the Premier League since the goalless draw at Birmingham on 1 November, and to the strong indications that Mancini will not indulge Robinho. The Brazilian's pitiful display would have been most disheartening of all to those who witnessed his thrilling hat-trick in the corresponding fixture last season and he has fallen a very long way since, managing just three goals in the past calendar year.

Mancini has not yet spoken directly with the Brazilian about his future desires, though the kick aimed at a stray tracksuit as he walked toward the bench suggested a new broom has not swept a new sense of perspective into him. "[A conversation] is for the future," Mancini said. "The important thing for me is that Robinho stays here because he can earn a place in the history of the club." And can he make the Brazilian stay? "I don't know."

Mancini's decision to start with Martin Petrov, not an enthusiast of the previous manager, rather than Craig Bellamy, who so volubly was, underlined the sense that he is not one to be cowed. It helped him that the Bulgarian's goal, which he slid in after Robinho had missed his aim at Carlos Tevez's low cross, suggested Hughes had been missing a trick all along. Petrov has scored in each of the four games he has started this season and he, for one, questions the old guard. "Every time I score, I go to the bench," he said. "Maybe in the future I will speak 100 per cent but what he was doing with me I think was unfair."

Mancini takes his side to Wolves today, with Kolo Touré in place for one last game before African Nations Cup duty and with Roque Santa Cruz and Shaun Wright-Phillips back, so Robinho might not get another start.

Mancini indicated in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport on Christmas Eve that it is his desire to proceed with Hughes's 4-3-3, though the stronger defensive line he is demanding suggests that will morph into something more pragmatic in the course of games. "The most important thing was that we held a defensive line with the goalkeeper and the four defenders," Mancini said on Saturday. "You have to create a balance and realise that the big teams do not concede goals every game."

Easier said than done, given that the familiar, rickety defence left Shay Given with two top-class saves to make. Brian Kidd saw this only too well, though the way Mancini banished him away with an outstretched hand when Touré got the sharp end of his tongue contributed to the general sense that Kidd was not welcome. A new man with his own mind then, but Mancini's pragmatism suggests the poster City have hung at their ground needs to be refined. "Blue sky thinking" it reads. The sky has a ceiling, now.

Manchester City (4-4-2): Given; Zabaleta, Touré, Kompany, Sylvinho (Richards, 61); Ireland, De Jong, Barry, Petrov; Robinho (Bellamy, 71), Tevez (Garrido, 90). Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Vidal, Weiss, Boyata.

Stoke City (4-4-2): Sorensen; Wilkinson (Huth, 48), Abdoulaye Faye, Higginbotham, Collins; Whitehead, Diao, Whelan, Etherington; Sidibe (Beattie, 52), Sanli (Fuller, 59). Substitutes not used: Simonsen (gk), Lawrence, Pugh, Delap.

Referee: L Mason (Lancashire).

Booked: Stoke City Diao, Whelan.

Man of the match: Petrov.

Attendance: 47,325 .

News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
News
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn