The critics have been out in force this week, the full range of doom and gloom which, if to be believed, would convince you Daniel Farke has lost it, Teemu Pukki is passed it and Todd Cantwell just falls over all game. And bring on Seb Soto for good measure.
And somehow, despite an emphatic victory, you feel the doubters will not be silenced.
City began the way they left off against Swansea, giving the ball away in dangerous positions twice in the opening minute, fortunate that John Obi-Mikels shot speared wide.
But then the counter. City showed real attacking intent as wave after wave of slick, sharp moves pinned Stoke back. There was a noticeable change to City’s thrusts forward with both Max Aarons and Dimitris Giannoulous playing dangerous, early crosses into the box.
Stoke weren’t sure whether to press or drop off. First Emi Buendia and then Pukki had efforts scrambled away.
The goal, when it came, will be a bitter disappointment to the anti-Farke ball ‘stop fannying around and clear it buh!’ brigade. It started with Tim Krul, moved across into the left-back position before working its way into the middle of the pitch.
And then the magic made in Dereham. A neat turn, body swerve past two Stoke defenders. The ball rolled to Mario Vrancic who produced a neat backheel for Cantwell to slot left footed into the bottom corner. 20 passes in the build-up according to some.
The goal forced the Stoke hand. They were forced to press City higher up the pitch. Steven Fletcher was causing problems for Grant Hanley with his physicality but the back four looked resolute.
And City continued to cause problems.
A superb Vrancic tackle followed by a beautiful clip with the outside of the foot put Pukki through but Harry Souttar was up to the challenge and squeezed the ball back to Angus Gunn.
As the end of the half approached, Emi chased down the Stoke defence. He ran on to his looping block, used all of his 5’7 of football and some to leap and control the ball before squaring to Pukki for a tap in.
The second half bought a Stoke reaction, pressing high with three, sometimes four players and driving City back. Kenny McLean was once again guilty as he played a ball straight into the path of Nick Powell, who rounded Krul, only for Hanley to scramble the ball clear.
City always looked likely to hit Stoke on the counter but gave Stoke a hand back into the game after an hour. Giannoulous stepped inside nicely before playing a horrible cross-field ball straight to Powell who rifled home.
I remember Mike Sutton calling me out for playing a similar ball on the fields of Hellesdon High School in the ’80s. I never did it again and, hopefully, Giannoulous won’t either!
He made immediate amends though. Cantwell clipped the ball to him on the edge of the Stoke area. He moved past the fullback and cut back a delightful ball for Buendia to volley home.
And still City weren’t done.
They continued to press, working the ball around the Stoke box before Buendia was bought down. The Argentinian initially channeled his inner Snodgrass and placed the ball but Pukki was having none of it and stroked the ball past Gunn.
The game was marred by a head injury to Ollie Skipp and what looked like a nasty knee injury for Nathan Collins – hopefully both will be back quickly.
To my mind, City answered the critics in the best way possible in a game loaded with much more attacking purpose. It wasn’t just down to Buendia either. The effect of a whole week without a game, recoveries from covid and injury, and a chance for Farke to work some magic cannot be underestimated.
Over to you Brentford…